The St. Louis Cardinals are slated to fend off elimination tonight in Game 6 of the World Series. Let’s just hope they reached Boston in time to avoid talks of the plane delay having any effect. What we should be talking about is rookie Michael Wacha, and his remarkable performance in this year’s postseason. This rookie fan favorite will be pitching the game of his life in just a few short hours, and his ability to succeed will determine whether or not the Cardinals survive to play a Game 7.
In four postseason appearances, Wacha has an ERA of exactly 1. After two scoreless outings against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, Wacha gave up 3 runs to the Boston Red Sox through 6, but kept the Cards in the game long enough to win Game 2. To keep the Red Sox at bay again tonight, Wacha has to focus on one very intimidating presence in the lineup.
David Ortiz is going absolutely ballistic in this World Series. He’s already passed legendary status, but unfortunately for Boston he seems to be the only hitter capable of scoring runs. Ortiz is only one of three hitters in the Red Sox lineup with an average above .250 in this Series. Fortunately for Boston, Big Papi is way, way above that mark, recording an unbelievable .733 batting average in this Series. Wacha will know exactly who he needs to get out to win this game and keep the Cards alive.
The rookie right-hander’s best tools are his sinking fastball and his changeup. He reaches velocities of 92-97 MPH with the fastball and controls both pitches with remarkable precision. Frighteningly enough for fans in St. Louis, Ortiz feasts on those two pitches. According to advanced batting stats, Ortiz hits high-velocity fastballs and changeups as well as anyone on the team. Much to John Farrell‘s consternation, nobody else in the lineup is doing much of anything offensively. Further proving the fact that AL teams need consistent power to succeed, the Red Sox are currently anemic offensively, and it could cost them a World Series title.
Wacha will be opposed tonight by John Lackey and a very unbalanced Boston lineup. Jonny Gomes‘ lone home run is the only long ball hit by another player on the roster this Series, and only Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia have more than one multi-base hit. Wacha needs to stay ahead in the count on Big Papi and keep away from the middle of the plate, if he pitches to Ortiz at all. If he can stop Ortiz, he should be able to hold the Red Sox to little or no offensive production.
Wacha’s performance against Ortiz tonight will be the most important pitching moment of his career, so you better believe he’ll be ready. However, the same should be said for the currently white-hot and always-clutch David Ortiz. Whatever happens, we’re looking at an all-time great face-off in the making. Get your popcorn ready, toss your beer in the fridge and settle in – tonight should be a lot of fun.