BOSTON — Michael Wacha has had more to shoulder this postseason for the St. Louis Cardinals than anybody expected when he was called up from the minor leagues.
He pitched a do-or-die game in the NLDS against the Pittsburgh Pirates and nearly threw a no-hitter. He beat Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw twice in the NLCS, including the series-clinching Game 6. It won him the series MVP award.
Now after a complete and utter disaster of a Game 1, in which the Cardinals lost 8-1 to the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis turns to its 22-year-old rookie sensation in Thursday night's World Series Game 2. He'll need to unleash his postseason dominance again — lest the Cards fly back to St. Louis down 0-2 in the series.
Wacha's 3-0 in the postseason with a 0.43 ERA, and it's worth mentioning that two of his outings came after Cardinals losses.
Thus far, he's been unfazed by the postseason. But as great as the NLDS and NLCS are, they're not the World Series. Now, the stage is bigger, the stakes are higher.
"I'm just trying not to think too much about it," Wacha said Wednesday, before the Cardinals' loss. "Just trying to approach every game the same. Trying not to get too caught up in the moment. I'm sure after the season I'll be able to look back and think about, 'Hey, I pitched in the World Series' and that kind of stuff. So, you know, right now just trying to get focused on the next start coming up [Thursday] and just go from there."
Wacha stands 6-foot-6. He's a Texas boy with a bit of that Peyton Manning aw-shucksiness. He smiled and laughed Wednesday, relaying to the media how he's starting to recognize his fame. He went to eat a restaurant in St. Louis and there was a milkshake on the menu named after him. It had Cracker Jack and chocolate chips. "Wacha, Wacha," it was called.
"Never heard that one before," he deadpanned.
Wacha, of course, is not here to review milkshakes. He's here to pitch.
"I want the ball in big situations," he said. "There's none bigger than the World Series. And so I'm excited about getting it ... This World Series start will definitely be the No. 1, the highest, biggest, most important game that I've ever pitched in."
Bigger now, more important now, because of what happened Wednesday night. Adam Wainwright, the staff's ace, got toasted by the Red Sox. The Cardinals' lineup could only muster a late-inning homer. Things need to be different on Thursday for the Cardinals. And that starts with Wacha.
"He's not scared," Wainwright said, standing in front of his locker after the Game 1 loss. "He's got great stuff, but he's not scared. He attacks hitters. That's what he's done all postseason. We don't need him to do anything differently. He's just the guy we need."
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