(BaseballStL) — Michael Wacha’s follow up to his bittersweet start in New York began strong Monday night, but ended in similar fashion.
For the most part, Wacha’s command was tremendous Monday, netting him nine strikeouts in 6.1 innings on 101 pitches.
“Everything felt good,” he said after the game. “I had a good feel for all my pitches and command of them.”
His fastball was his broadsword, accounting for 51 of his total offerings, while he used his cutter and change up as twin daggers, discombobulating the Brewers and fouling up their timing on the heater.
The young starter was ahead of 19 batters with a strike, and when he fell behind 1-0, he stormed back to get ahead 1-2 five times.
However, he found himself in trouble in the sixth, when Yovani Gallardo beat out an infield grounder and Carlos Gomez got a free base when he was clipped by the ball on check swing. After a pair of pop-ups, Wacha had Aramis Ramirez in the hole 0-2 before a fastball ran in and hit him.
It was a flashback to New York, and the Cardinal starter was one mistake away from pitching himself into another disaster. Instead, he threw three straight strikes to Khris Davis, striking him out on a change up.
The performance was a necessary one, as the Cardinal offense to that point had failed to ignite. Instead it had sparked and smoldered, producing five hits over five innings and one run in the first but had not capitalized since then.
Wacha’s escape was rewarded when the offense awoke, blasting two home runs in the home half of the sixth for a three-run cushion. It would prove necessary quicker than expected.
“In the [seventh] it kind of found him quick,” Mike Matheny said. “At that point he was still strong. He entered that inning at about 82 pitches and we like his ability to get out of tough spots. We pushed him and it didn’t work today.”
The 22-year-old began the seventh strong, striking out Mark Reynolds on three pitches. Then, the wheels started to wobble when backup shortstop Jeff Bianchi drew a walk. Elian Herrara, in for the injured Ryan Braun, singled to set up Lyle Overbay for a pinch-hit RBI single.
“You just can’t make mistakes like that. The walk, I just ended up not making a pitch there when I needed to,” Wacha said. “Then an 0-2 pitch caught too much of the plate and I got ground balls like I wanted but they just found the hole. Can’t really do much about it.”
Gomez bunted his way on when Matt Carpenter had nowhere to throw, and Scooter Gennett knocked Wacha out when he singled to score Milwaukee’s second run.
In all it was strong performance in Wacha’s sixth outing, despite the ugly ending. He picked up nine more strikeouts for a total of 44 on the year, best on the team. He also allowed three runs or less for the sixth straight start. Lance Lynn will take the hill for his second matchup against the Brewers Tuesday night.