On August 28th, the Cincinnati Reds torched Adam Wainwright for 9 runs spread over two gruesome innings. Despite striking out his last two batters faced, the damage was done and there was little incentive to keep him in any longer. Matheny went to the pen and called on Michael Wacha for mop up work. The Reds had a win expectancy of 98.1% at this point. The result was set in stone. Wacha proceeded to whiff 7 over 4 scoreless and give the team a minor, moral victory in an otherwise forgettable 10-0 slaughter.
On May 30th, Wacha made his major league debut in a replacement start of John Gast (remember that?), taking a hard luck loss to the Royals in a 4-2 game despite striking out 6 and allowing 2 hits over 7 innings. He was dusted by Arizona for 6 runs and 10 hits in his next start, then threw a solid, yet unspectacular 6 innings against the Mets before being optioned back to Memphis to clear a roster spot for Jake Westbrook. After some calculated rest, the flux of the rotation in St. Louis called for help, and Wacha came back up and threw a nondescript 5 innings against the Cubs before spending the better part of August coming out of the bullpen.
Then the aforementioned Cincinnati long-relief appearance, followed by 7 strong versus the Pirates, a scuffle with the Mariners, and a lambasting at Coors. It was a prototypical growing pains/flashes of brilliance dichotomy of a season for a talented rookie having his first go of it. At this point, though, it was simply good enough. He got some big league work and laid track for the future.
And then a switch flipped. In his final start of the regular season, Wacha came within one out of a no-hitter. He followed it up with a 7 inning no-hit bid in an elimination game on the road in the NLDS. Then he notched a 1-0 victory in game 2 of the NLCS opposing Clayton Kershaw. To give you real insight into how he’s pitched in the playoffs, he’s been fortunate to strand 100% of runners on base and limiting hitters to a .167 BABIP. But he’s struck out 17 in 14 innings and given up one run. Most importantly, he’s given the Cardinals 14 spectacular innings that the team was in doubt on how to fill going in. The consensus thought on the rotation heading to the playoffs was Wainwright and pray for rain. As it stands, Wacha’s been invaluable.