Thoughts: Wacha stars in debut for Cards
May, 31, 2013
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
Haven't done one of these all week, so some quick thoughts on Thursday's games ...
- I was watching the Detroit Tigers-Pittsburgh Pirates last night but on my laptop I had on the Kansas City Royals-St. Louis Cardinals game to check out Michael Wacha's debut for St. Louis. If you're not familiar with Wacha, he was the 19th pick in last year's draft out of Texas A&M and I'm left asking: There were 18 guys better than him? (The pick, by the way, came via the Los Angeles Angels in the Albert Pujols signing.) After a terrific spring training he posted a 2.05 ERA in nine Triple-A starts and became the seventh rookie pitcher to appear for the Cardinals this year. He thoroughly dominated the Royals, pitching four no-hit innings and finishing with this line: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 SO. He failed to get the win when the Royals rallied for three runs in the ninth (after a long rain delay that had the Cardinals asking for an eight-inning victory).
After pitching four days in a row, Cardinals closer Edward Mujica had a day off, as did rookie setup guy Trevor Rosenthal, leaving Mitchell Boggs to get burned yet again.As for Wacha, he threw 58 fastballs out of his 93 pitches, averaging 93.3 mph and touching 96-97. He throws up in the zone, especially to left-handers, and on this night did a good job of painting the outside corner against right-handers. He also gets some late movement, almost like a cutter, so while he didn't have a high K rate in the minors, he apparently induced a lot of weak contact, which was the case on Thursday. His out pitch is a changeup on which he recorded four of his six strikeouts. The pitch dives away from lefties and down and in to righties. He also has a curveball but only threw three against the Royals. OK, the Royals have been in a huge offensive slump so we should factor that in, but this kid looked terrific. Very poised and confident (it helps when you retire the first 13 hitters). I get a feeling he may not be heading back to the minors.
- You know, Freddy Garcia has had a hell of a career. He threw eight shutout innings for the Baltimore Orioles in a 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals and I love that Buck Showalter left him in to throw 113 pitches and save the bullpen. I'm skeptical Garcia can succeed all season -- he has just 15 strikeouts in 35.1 innings -- but he does throw strikes (six walks in starts) and won't beat himself. Garcia is now 158-103 in his career and not many pitchers win 158 games. He was the ace of two Seattle Mariners teams that reached the postseason and was a member of that stellar 2005 Chicago White Sox rotation that won a World Series. He battled back from injuries to turn into a junkballer supreme; who knows, maybe he learned a few lessons from Jamie Moyer back in the day. Good story and I hope he continues to pitch well.
- The Cleveland Indians are in the midst of a tough portion of their schedule and had dropped six of seven to the Tigers, the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds before rallying to beat the Reds the past two nights in Cleveland. They scored all seven runs in the fourth inning to beat Cincy 7-1 on Thursday behind Scott Kazmir. Yan Gomes went 3-for-4 and is hitting .319/.333/.638 as he continues to push himself into the lineup. Don't be surprised to see Carlos Santana getting more days off from catching and more time at first base and DH. It doesn't get any easier for the Indians as their next five series are against the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Tigers, Texas Rangers and Nationals.
- The Colorado Rockies just lost two to the Houston Astros at home (and three of four in this four-game matchup), which has to hurt. Todd Helton is down to .219/.287/.344 and you wonder how much longer Walt Weiss can afford to keep him in the lineup.
- Carl Crawford did this but the Angels beat the Dodgers 3-2 behind the red-hot Jason Vargas. More bad news for the Dodgers: Matt Kemp hit the DL. Or maybe it's good news. He needs to get healthy.
- Travis Wood hit a grand slam for the Chicago Cubs. That's 19 RBIs for Cubs pitchers in May -- the most by a pitching staff since the 1940 Tigers had 20 in August. In fact, Cubs pitchers are tied for 19th in the majors in RBIs in May. Gotta love baseball.
- This was pretty cool.