ST. LOUIS -- While it was Trevor Rosenthal who pulled off the game-saving escape act, Michael Wacha laid the foundation for Friday's 1-0 win over the D-backs with a performance that only added to the confidence that this season is bound to finish differently for him.Understandably uncertain about how his
ST. LOUIS -- While it was Trevor Rosenthal who pulled off the game-saving escape act, Michael Wacha laid the foundation for Friday's 1-0 win over the D-backs with a performance that only added to the confidence that this season is bound to finish differently for him.
Understandably uncertain about how his right shoulder would hold up deep into the season, the Cardinals have watched Wacha turn back the clock and hush concerns about his health. Friday marked the fourth time in his last six starts that Wacha held his opponent scoreless.
"Michael was, once again, just fantastic," manager Mike Matheny said afterward. "Just really impressive how he's taken things to another level."
Wacha didn't allow a hit until Chris Owings' double with two outs in the fifth, and when he got into his only precarious position of the night, the right-hander responded by throwing a full-count curveball that drew a chase from David Peralta. His growing confidence in that pitch has been evident of late, and Wacha actually went to the curveball more frequently than he did his trusty changeup.
He tallied five called strikes and three swings and misses with the off-speed pitch.
"Huge," Matheny said of the development of that curve. "It's been in the works the last couple years, and this year I think he's just seeing that it makes everything else more effective. That's all you need to throw their timing off by getting them to doubt what it might be instead of it being two weapons to attack. That curveball has turned into not just steal-a-strike and keep-them-off-balance [pitch], but it's turned into an out pitch as well."
After a stretch in which he finished six innings just once in a six-start span, Wacha has now gone at least as deep in five of his last six starts. His ERA over that stretch is 1.86.
"I think [I'm] just attacking guys and keeping the ball down in the zone," said Wacha, who improved to 7-1 with a 2.67 ERA in 12 home starts this season. "I feel like that's when I've had the most success. [I'm] just trying to build off each start right now."
The dependability Wacha has provided this season may be even more critical as the Cards face a bit of upcoming uncertainty within their rotation. Adam Wainwright sits on the disabled list with a back injury, and Lance Lynn remains a potential trade chip with Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline looming.
Wacha, on the other hand, has buried questions about his durability by showcasing the sort of success that nudged him into the national spotlight back in 2013.
"I know I'm feeling really good," Wacha said. "I just have to keep going."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.