Daily Dose: Wacha Flocka FameFriday, October 25, 2013
Michael Wacha will eventually lose a postseason game. Perhaps it will be a day when he doesn't have his best stuff, struggling from the outset. Maybe it will be a day when he's good but the opposing pitcher is better, rendering the Cardinals offense utterly useless. However it happens, the day will come.
Alas, that day was not Thursday.
Wacha allowed two runs over six innings and the Cardinals plated three runs in a decisive seventh inning as they rallied for a 4-2 win in Thursday's Game 2. The victory drew the series even at a game apiece heading back to St. Louis.
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After the game, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said it's more of the same from his 22-year-old starter.
"The kid continues to impress," Matheny said. "I don't know what else you could ask. Put him on any stage and he does a real nice job of limiting distractions. He and Yadi work well together and make good adjustments along the way. He stuck with his strengths and really went out and was aggressive, and that's exactly what we needed him to do."
It was the least convincing of his four postseason starts to date, high praise considering he allowed just three hits on the evening. But Wacha walked four batters, tying a career high through 13 major league starts, and David Ortiz' two-run home run in the sixth inning marked the first time the Cardinals have trailed this postseason with Wacha on the mound.
Matheny said the characterization of Wacha's start as some sort of disappointment or struggle spoke to how well he'd performed before Thursday.
"I think it's a sign of how good the other starts were," Matheny said. "The kid gave up three hits, one of them was a bloop. He gave up a couple of walks, and just happened to give up the big hit. But I think that it appeared that way because he's been so sharp in the other ones, which I thought he was very sharp today as well. It was the timely hitting. The two‑run home run there makes a difference behind a walk. But overall you can't ask for much more from that kid or anybody else."
Wacha has now allowed just three runs over 27 innings this postseason, owning a 1.00 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 28/8 K/BB ratio. The NLCS MVP also has one more important statistic in his favor -- he's now a perfect 4-0 this postseason.
If Wacha's metronome-like dependability was the headline, the game's second-most noteworthy happening was an out-of-character play by the visitors.
In the Cardinals' half of the seventh inning, a David Freese walk and Jon Jay single put two runners on with only one out. Red Sox manager John Farrell called on lefty reliever Clayton Breslow to face Daniel Descalso, and Matheny made a move of his own, substituting Pete Kozma as a pinch-runner for Freese.
During the regular season, the Cardinals stole just 45 bases as a team. That ranked them second-to-last in the league, ahead of only Detroit. Kozma had just three of those 45 stolen bases; Jay led the team with 10. (He was caught stealing five times, also a team high.) So it was a surprise to everyone when Kozma and Jay executed a double steal that put two runners in scoring position with just one out.
Matheny said it was a case of the baserunners making a heads up play.
"We're not a huge base‑stealing threat, as you look at our numbers, but I believe we're opportunistic and when it presents itself, we have a few guys that can take advantage of it, and they did a great job keeping their eyes open," Matheny said.
The play came in handy two batters later, when Matt Carpenter lofted a fly ball to left fielder Jonny Gomes. The throw home was wide, allowing Kozma to score, and the subsequent throw trying to gun down Jay at third sailed into the stands on a hop. Jay came home to give the Cardinals the lead, a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
The two teams will now travel to St. Louis for a guaranteed set of three games. Saturday's contest will pit Cardinals starter Joe Kelly against Red Sox starter Jake Peavy.
There was talk Thursday that if Sunday's Game 4 was an elimination game for the Cardinals they might enlist ace Adam Wainwright on short rest, but the guarantee of a Game 5 likely means Lance Lynn will get the start instead. He'll be opposed -- at least preliminarily -- by Clay Buchholz, who has been dealing with arm fatigue. That sets up a likely rematch of Wainwright and Jon Lester for Monday's Game 5.
National League Quick Hits: Heading back to the National League park, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said Allen Craig playing first base is "probably a reach" but that things could change in the next 48 hours. If Craig can't go, he'll be relegated to pinch-hitting duties while Matt Adams patrols first base ... the Nationals sent Chris Marrero outright to Triple-A Syracuse, removing him from their 40-man roster. The former first-round draft pick can become a minor league free agent after the World Series.
American League Quick Hits: Farrell said David Ortiz will likely get the start at first base in Game 3. The presence of Ortiz and Mike Napoli means one will be forced to sit during the three games in St. Louis ... Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer said there is "no chance" the Indians offer a long-term deal to Ubaldo Jimenez. The Indians could still extend him a qualifying offer for a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $14 million ... Lloyd McClendon interviewed for the Tigers managerial opening on Thursday. McClendon previously managed the Pirates from 2001 to 2005 and is currently the Tigers' hitting coach.