(BaseballStL) — Michael Wacha takes the hill for the rubber match against Chicago Sunday, looking for his second win.
The 22-year-old went 6.2 scoreless innings in Cincinnati, but registered a no decision. He cracked the win column five days later against the Reds, going six innings and allowing one run on seven hits.
The young starter reached bobble head fame on April 11, becoming one of the youngest players to ever get the honor.
With the expectations built from last season’s success and the incredible fame generated by hype and performance, Wacha has plenty of possible diversions to contend with.
“We have to be conscious of it. We have to make a conscious effort to limit the distractions and make sure that we’re to letting them get in the way of what we need to do,” Mike Matheny said. “Out there there’s a lot of this and that. There’s the bobble head night -which is great for the fans - and then theres the distraction about the rain delays. But inside the clubhouse there’s a pretty consistent atmosphere where guys just come in and do their job and Michael has done a good job of keeping outside outside.”
Wacha’s first two starts were marred by rain, pushing back the game two hours and 40 minutes in Cincinnati and creating a cold, soaked day for the home opener at Busch Stadium.
Sunday began with rain, but the skies cleared two hours before first pitch.
In addition to ignoring external stimuli, Wacha has evolved in his approach to hitters. Coming into the season, the young starter was viewed as a two-pitch threat. While his fastball/change up combination was feared, he worked hard to develop a curveball that was more than just a show pitch.
“It’s just a matter of how it feels that particular day. There’s not that many days that you’ve got all four you can execute in a particular count,” Matheny said. “It’s going to be night to night. Most of these guys are the same way. If they’ve got two that they can put wherever they want, whenever they want it, I’d say you have a pretty good chance that day.”
Hitters know Wacha can usually put his fastball anywhere he wants. The Cardinal manager said Sunday that though Wacha wants to deploy his curve, he won’t do it if there’s a chance he can get hurt with it.
“They’re going to show everything they have to keep it on their mind, but these guys are smart,” he said, referring to hitters. “They realize he’s throwing this but he’s not trying to make a good, nasty pitch with it.”