Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Wacha has a nice bounceback, near no-no
By Mark Simon
St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha came within one out (and a few inches) of pitching the third no-hitter in the major leagues this season.
He had to settle for a nice turnaround from his last start, and a needed victory over the Washington Nationals in the NL Central race.
The Cardinals are one step closer to winning the division again.
So close, so many times
Wacha’s was the third no-hit bid lost with two outs in the ninth. The others were both perfect-game bids, by Yu Darvish against the Astros and Yusmeiro Petit against the Diamondbacks. This marked the first time since the 1990 season that three pitchers lost no-hit bids when they were one out from completing a victory.
Had Wacha gotten the no-hitter, it would have been the first by a Cardinals pitcher since Bud Smith threw one against the Padres in 2001 and the first against the Nationals franchise since David Cone pitched a perfect game against the then-Expos in 1999.
When he’s good, he’s really good
This was the third time this season that Wacha pitched at least seven innings and allowed two hits or fewer. He’s one of four active pitchers to have three such starts within the first 15 appearances of his major-league career, joining Travis Wood, Anibal Sanchez and Matt Harvey.
How he won
Wacha averaged 95 mph with his fastball, the fastest average speed he’s posted in any of his nine career major-league starts. He mixed that with a changeup that averaged 88 mph. The latter generated nine outs, five via strikeout.
Both of those pitches got pounded in his last start against the Rockies, yielding five hits apiece.
But more often than not, those pitches have been a good combination for him.
Wacha’s fastball has netted him 118 outs and yielded only 42 hits and walks (a well above-average success rate) and he’s gotten misses on about one of every five swings taken against the pitch (also well above average).
His changeup was the pitch that retired Bryce Harper in all three matchups they had in this game. He twice got Harper to fly to centerfielder Jon Jay, then struck him out on a changeup that was basically thrown to the right-handed batter's box.
Wacha could find his way into big spots for the Cardinals this postseason. He has some appeal in that he’s a right-handed pitcher who can get out hitters from both the left and right side. Lefties are hitting .197 with a .493 OPS and one home run in 127 plate appearances against him.
Those numbers are the best among the nine Cardinals righties who have faced at least 60 left-handed hitters this season.