(BaseballStL) — It was a tale of two games for Michael Wacha. For three innings, he was in absolute control.
Nine outs, nine strikeouts. His fastball was the primary pitch on a cold and windy night in the Big Apple, but it was on fire early. Six of the nine strikeouts came from his heater, with the remaining three coming curtesy of his newfound curveball.
He was ahead of eight of the first 12 batters with a strike, and the Mets looked absolutely dumfounded by the 22-year-old’s location and selection. Wacha was headed for a career-record in strikeouts, and the one run the Cardinals had given him looked as safe as houses.
In the fourth inning, Wacha got a taste of what New York hitters had been dealing with. Suddenly the lanky hurler appeared to be completely unsure about where his next pitch would end up. His curveball, a faithful companion to his fastball and cutter early, seemed to abandon him completely.
It didn’t start ugly. Daniel Murphy singled, but Wacha got a fielder’s choice out on an 0-2 count, and seemed to have things under control.
Then Lucas Duda walked on five pitches. Travis d’Arnaud singled to load the bases, and suddenly Wacha looked touchable.
The Mets wouldn’t need to do anything more than stand still, however. After getting ahead 0-1 on Ruben Tejada, Wacha threw a fastball, curveball, cutter and eventually a fastball again as he tried to find the zone. The search proved fruitless, and the St. Louis starter walked Tejada to knot the game at 1-1.
He then got behind pitcher Jon Niese 2-0 before eventually getting a harrowing called third on a 3-2 count.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis would draw a five pitch walk behind Niese, as Wacha missed on three fastballs and a change after getting ahead 0-1.
The inning would end when Curtis Granderson mercifully popped out to third, but not before the Mets took a 2-1 lead.
The fourth would mark Wacha’s final inning. He threw 16 balls, walking three. His strikeout of Niese saw him K a career-high 10, but his 93-pitch, four frame performance was a career low in longevity.