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Wacha takes no-hitter into 9th in 5-0 win over Pirates

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Michael Wacha almost threw a no hitter, but then a moran had to ruin the fun.

Pittsburgh Pirates v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

I have never personally been able to watch a no-hitter thrown by a Cardinals pitcher in my lifetime and that streak continues with today’s game. But Michael Wacha almost broke that streak. It is unfathomable to me that the Cardinals haven’t had a no-hitter since Bud Smith in 2001 while no-hitters are becoming way more common than they used to be. We’ve had great pitching staffs too!

With the proliferation of no-hitters across the league, sometimes pitchers pitch as good as the no hitter moniker would suggest and sometimes, well you wonder when they found a monkey’s paw to get all balls to magically find gloves. Wacha pitched the “good” kind of no hitter though, being an excellent pitcher for 7 innings, only hitting a speed bump in the 5th when he had some control problems.

It was one of those games where you’re less worried that he won’t get the no hitter and more worried that his pitch count would rise to uncomfortable levels. For the first four innings, Michael Wacha limited the hitters options, with every out but one being a strikeout, groundout, or popout. He struck out a batter in each inning, and not allowing a single baserunner.

But Francisco Cervelli has been a real pest this series, getting into a 1-2 count and then walking on seven pitches. He later walked Gregory Polanco on six pitches. He had 48 pitches through 4 until that 5th inning and finished the inning with 69 pitches. Good pace for a normal game, but if you want the starter to last 9 innings, you start worrying.

He returned to form in the 6th, with a leadoff lineout by Josh Harrison being more nerve-wracking than normal because Marcell Ozuna badly misjudged it at first, but recovered nicely. (Tommy Pham did the same thing earlier, so maybe the sun made it hard to get a good read on the ball). Wacha finished the inning by getting Adam Frazier to weakly ground out and then recovering from a 3-1 hole to Josh Bell to strike him out on 6 pitches.

He struck out two batters in the 7th in a 1-2-3 inning and it really looked like it would happen. Things looked good in the 8th when he struck out David Freese on three pitches and then got Polanco to ground out on the first pitch. He got to 0-2 on Sean Rodriguez and very annoyingly ended up working an 8-pitch plate appearance that resulted in a weak groundout. Wacha threw a perfect changeup right below the strike zone on 1-2 that I can’t believe he didn’t chase.

After a seemingly hour long bottom of the 8th, Wacha’s quest for a no-hitter ended anticlimactically. He had long odds to get the no-hitter, at least in my mind, because Colin Moran pinch-hit and he would also have to deal with Austin Meadows. He would certainly have earned the hell out of the no-hitter if he could get through both of those two. Unfortunately, Moran hit a single, but on the bright side, at least the first batter singled and that it wasn’t, say, an infield hit with 2 outs. Purely hypothetically speaking of course.

Offensively, the Cards had kind of a weird day. No not the obvious joke that they scored 5 runs, but because four of their first five runs were scored after the first four batters came to the plate and they took a long time to score the 5th. Matt Carpenter didn’t have to do much to get on base, looking at 5 pitches to get his walk. Pham laced a line drive single towards center to put runners at first and second. Then Jose Martinez got on base from an error by Rodriguez to load the bases. Then Ozuna swung at the first pitch he saw and thankfully it was a good pitch to hit, as he crushed a homer towards left to put the Cardinals at 4-0 quickly.

After that, rookie pitcher Nick Kingham settled down and pitched not a whole lot different from his first start against the Cardinals. He got the next 11 batters out after giving up the grand slam, including 5 strikeouts. Kolten Wong ruined that streak, hitting a bloop single into right field. The Cardinals threatened in the 5th, from a Pham single and an error on a Martinez hit ball, but Ozuna didn’t copy his plate appearance from the first and grounded out.

Steven Brault replaced Kingham for the 6th and he got a bit lucky. With one out, he walked Yairo Munoz. On a 3-2 count, he threw a clear ball that Wong unfortunately swung at and since Munoz was stealing on the play, he got thrown out in a double play. We might need to cut those plays out as this is Munoz’s third time caught stealing, all on 2 strike counts that resulted in strikeouts.

In the bottom of the 8th, the bats came alive at a weird time. Guys, just go down 1-2-3 and let the part everyone is intereted in happen. But baseball isn’t a sport where you can thrown away plate appearances so they didn’t. Martinez lined a double into left, and then Ozuna walked. After a Harrison Bader strikeout, Munoz drove in the fifth run of the game with a single. Michael Feliz had 28 pitches and was just generally ineffective so they replaced him and the inning dragged on. Rich Rodriguez took care of Wong and Fox Sports Midwest decided to skip the commercial break and we were ready.

Alas, it was not meant to be and Wacha gave up a hit to Moran. He got taken out to a standing ovation and 111 pitches. He seemed in good spirits considering he almost got a no hitter again. I would have been trashing the clubhouse in frustration. So close, but so far. Jordan Hicks replaced Wacha and was effective again. He struck out Frazier, and then allowed a single to Meadows. With one out, he got a slower roller to Munoz for the second out and he finished the great pitching performance of the Cardinals today with his second strikeout. Sweet.

Notes

  • Wacha line: 8 IP, H, 8 Ks, 2 BBs - Usually a good sign when I only have to put up a few stats
  • Pham went 2-4 with two hard hit singles, so hopefully he’s out of his slump.
  • Yay for the 4 game series win against the Pirates. Pretty important wins they got here. Got to take care of your divisional foes.

Tomorrow, the Cardinals are off, but on Tuesday they stay at home and get to face Ozuna’s old team. He’s starting to hit homers at the right time. Love a good “new guy crushes” old team narrative (Hello, Jed!). It’s Carlos Martinez first start back from injury so do all the superstition things you want in order to make sure that goes well. He faces Jose Urena, and it’s a fitting matchup, because Urena also hits a ton of guys. Urena had 14 HBPs last year and is already on #7.