The St. Louis Cardinals are one loss away from being eliminated from the 2013 World Series. On Wednesday, the hopes of the National League champs rest on the shoulders of a 22-year-old rookie.
Five months ago, Michael Wacha was of barely legal drinking age and had yet to pitch in the Majors. Now, he’ll look to beat the Boston Red Sox and force a deciding Game Seven.
Wacha, though, is no ordinary rookie. Following up a strong regular season as both a starter and reliever, the right-hander has arguably performed better than anyone in this year’s playoffs. He has been virtually unhittable in four starts, registering a 1.00 ERA in four starts. In 27 innings, Wacha has struck out 28 batters and allowed just 19 men to reach base.
After the Cardinals lost the opener of the Fall Classic, Wacha took the mound at Fenway Park and shut down the best offense in baseball. He bested John Lackey, surrendering two runs in six innings. Wacha gave up just three hits, improving his record to 4-0 in the postseason.
“He pitched outstanding," Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina said. "Just one pitch, to a great hitter like Big Papi."
Boston’s only runs came on a two-run homer from David Ortiz in the sixth inning. Wacha was able retire Ortiz once, however, something that might be considered an accomplishment in this series. Ortiz is the midst of an historical performance and tied a World Series record in Game Five by reaching base safely for a ninth consecutive time.
If the Red Sox can close out the series in Boston, the 16-year veteran is almost a guarantee to win be named the MVP. Ortiz is hitting .733 against St. Louis with two home runs, six RBI and a 1.267 slugging percentage.
Even if Wacha is somehow able to keep Ortiz at bay, he still might have to be close to perfect to give his team a chance. The Cardinals offense has struggled in the series, hitting just .218 with two home runs. They’ve scored three total runs in the last two games, with little help from the middle of the order. In their last two losses, St. Louis’s 3-4-5 hitters are a combined 3-22.
"The guys know what we have to do," manager Mike Matheny said. "We have to play the game. They have to lock arms, trust each other and play the game the right way. Most of it is going to be the mentality of not buying into any kind of stats, any kind of predictions, any kind of odds, and go out and play the game."
Just like in his first World Series appearance, Wacha will opposed Lackey. The right-hander blew a seventh-inning lead in Game Two, but got some redemption a few days later. He helped the Red Sox tie the series up at 2-2, pitching one shutout inning of relief on Sunday night.
TV Schedule: 8:07 p.m. ET, FOX
Prediction: St. Louis 3, Boston 2