(BaseballStL) -- In every successful season, an unlikely hero emerges whose contribution so far exceed his potential that it carries the team to greater glory.
On the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals, it would be hard to name just one. Matt Carpenter’s incredible 55 doubles and league-leading RBI total could never have been envisioned in February. Matt Adams 7 taters and .324 average filling in for Allen Craig could not have been predicted at spring training where Adams’ spot on the roster was far from a sure thing.
But if heroes are those who emerge where leaders have fallen, they would certainly be in the pitching corps. Decimated by injuries and age, the phoenix rose from the ashes on the literal wings on young men whose promotion to the majors advanced at light speed.
Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez, and Tyler Lyons rose to challenges that clearly surpassed their early potential.
But three exceeded even the most fanciful hopes after they were thrust into roles in which only their youth allowed them to believe they could succeed.
Kevin Siegrist, a 41st round pick who labored in relative obscurity in the Cards’ minor league system became the dominant left-handed reliever in a makeshift bullpen that in no way resembles the one conceived of as the team broke camp and headed north to start the season.
Trevor Rosenthal, a polite, soft spoken young man who could easily be mistaken for a middle school gym teacher fired 97 mph pellets past the league’s best hitters to set up the most unlikely closer in the league in Edward Mujica. Now that Mujica’s health and mechanics seem irretrievably lost, Rosenthal finds himself closing games in what has all year been the tightest pennant chase in baseball.
But perhaps most improbable is the performance of Michael Wacha. Plucked from the college roster of Texas A&M a year ago, Wacha’s talents continue to develop at an accelerated pace, compressed in the unrelenting pressure of a 3-team pennant race, like a diamond formed from coal.
Wacha’s performance in the near no-hitter in Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals was an accomplishment well beyond his tender years, appreciated more, perhaps, by veterans who fully comprehend what he did than by rookies who take such accomplishments in stride.
Wacha fanned nine, walked two and threw 112 pitches, 77 of them strikes. He moved the ball around the strike zone, changed speeds and kept this pitches down. But more, he maintained his composure and never appeared overwhelmed by the moment.
On Sept. 24, 2013, Michael Wacha moved further away from being a college pitcher and closer to becoming one of the most dominant pitchers on the staff of one of baseball’s elite franchises.