Now, at just one game ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates and two ahead of the Cincinnati Reds, the fat lady has hardly began warming up for the NL Central race yet to cement the St. Louis Cardinals at the top. That said, with their postseason probability at 99.8 percent heading into Tuesday, it’s fair to say that they’re more than likely headed into the postseason once more in 2013.
Would Michael Wacha get a chance to lead them to an extended run?
He’s certainly shows that he has the ability to do so. After a brilliant stint in the bullpen (2.53/0.94 ERA/WHIP, 16.03 K/9 to 1.69 BB/9 — seriously — over 10.2 IP), he’s been moved back into the rotation after the briefest of stays in the minors … and he’s been absolutely spectacular.
That was bad news for the Pirates on Sunday, as the 22-year old simply dominated the redbirds’ divisional rival through seven innings of two-hit shutout ball, allowing just a pair of walks and striking out two in the process.
Sure, the gaudy strikeout totals haven’t translated because his arsenal is still a work in process in a starting role, but as this outing follows six more innings of three-hit shutout ball in an equally crucial matchup against the Reds in his last turn, it’s hard to argue with the results.
And if he continues to pitch this way, he might just get a chance to be one of the team’s go-to guys in the postseason … and no, I don’t just mean if the Cardinals win the division either.
It’s not totally clear how the rotation picture will play out for the rest of the season in St. Louis, but if the current projected starts hold as is with Adam Wainwright starting on September 13 and Wacha on September 14, the team’s off day on the 26th would could play out such that the team’s ace either starts the final game of the season vs. the Chicago Cubs on five days rest at home, or the second last game of the season on his regular rest.
That final game could also go to Wacha (on regular rest), but if they choose to skip his turn on the off day to maintain his workload, there is a chance that he could skip the final series of the season altogether — and be ready for a potential Oct. 1 Wild Card showdown on six days rest.
It might sound preposterous to think that the Cardinals would go with the youngster instead of someone like Wainwright in a do-or-die game, but the fact is that the veteran has owned a 4.30/1.21 ERA/WHIP through 67 innings in the second half, and imploded on the mound in two of his previous three outings.
Yes, he did reel off seven straight quality starts prior to that because he’s Wainwright and he’s just that good … but all it takes is a little doubt, no?
Okay, so let’s say that unlikely scenario doesn’t happen, but the Cardinals end up winning the NL Central to go into the divisional round — is there an solid argument as to why Wacha shouldn’t be in the playoff rotation other than inexperience? Lance Lynn (7.57 ERA, -0.2 fWAR over last five) and Shelby Miller (4.45 ERA, -0.3 fWAR over last five) have been brutal down the stretch, and it’d be a leap of faith to expect an October turnaround.
That too, would open the door for the youngster Wacha to make an impact as the hot hand.
And while the team might not have wanted him to face such a steep learning curve, the way he’s pitched this season shows that he’s more than ready to climb it.