St. Louis Cardinals: Michael Wacha off to historically good start
Wacha leading stellar St. Louis staff
When staff ace Adam Wainwright was lost for the year with an Achilles injury, the St. Louis Cardinals’ season looked to be on shaky ground. However, young right-hander Michael Wacha stepped up and has assumed the reins flawlessly, emerging as an NL Cy Young threat.
His latest success came on Thursday night against the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers, with whom the Cards have developed somewhat of a rivalry in the past few years after squaring off in the postseason.
Wacha did not disappoint, tossing seven innings of one-run ball, striking out five. His control was spot-on, evidenced by the fact that he did not walk a single batter, allowing just two extra-base hits on the night.
A recent FOX Sports report broke down just how good not only Wacha, but the entire St. Louis starting rotation has been this season, putting this year’s staff in some elite company.
"They’re leading Major League Baseball with a 2.91 ERA through 322 innings, better than any St. Louis team at the end of a season since the 1969 group led by Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton. No MLB rotation has posted an ERA under 3.00 since the dominant 2011 Phillies team that featured Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and won 102 games."
Any time you’re mentioned with the likes of Gibson and Carlton, you know you’re doing something right. And while John Lackey and Lance Lynn have been impressive, Wacha has consistently separated himself from the rest with dominant start after dominant start all season-long.
In 11 starts, the Iowa City native has pitched at least six innings eight times, allowing three earned runs or fewer on nine separate occasions. He is tied for the league lead with eight wins, and boasts the ninth-best earned run average in Major League Baseball.
As the aforementioned FOX Sports piece points out, after Wainwright went down, the St. Louis rotation went into a tailspin, posting a 4.56 ERA in the next 20 games. The drastic turnaround, as well as much of the praise, has to land at the feet of Wacha, who looks to be the latest in a long string of Cardinals hurlers to emerge in recent memory.
It’s hard for other teams in the National League Central to keep pace with such dominance. On May 25, the second-place team in the division, the Chicago Cubs, sat 4 1/2 games out of first, but entering play Friday, Pittsburgh, the new second-place club, sat 6 1/2 out.
This is largely thanks to a recent stellar nine-game home stand St. Louis enjoyed, during which Mike Matheny‘s club went 7-2, picking up series wins over the Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers. What’s even more impressive is the way the Cardinals manhandled L.A.
In its last four games against the best in the National League West, St. Louis has outscored the Dodgers 14-to-7, with five of those runs coming in a 5-1 Los Angeles win back on May 30.
In his two starts against L.A., Wacha has been a mixed bag, as he was the pitcher who allowed those five runs last month – but also the one who held the Dodgers to just one run on Thursday.
With eight wins already in the bag (which, by the way, is a new career-high for Wacha), the St. Louis Cardinals ace is ready to make a run at a hardware sweep: a National League Cy Young award, yet-another division crown and the most coveted of all accolades: a World Series championship.