ST. LOUIS —
Both were first-round draft picks, Kershaw by the
But the most important similarity is the fact both will be on the mound for Game 6 of the
"I don't think nerves are going to be an issue for him," he said.
They haven't been so far. In two playoff starts — both wins — Wacha has given up a run and six hits in 14 innings. In the first of those, against the
So much for postseason pressure.
"There are some guys who have been able to embrace that and use that to their advantage. I think Michael's one of those," his manager, Mike Matheny, said.
Maybe that comes from another thing Wacha shares with Kershaw: enormous confidence.
"If you have doubts in your mind that you're not going to be a good pitcher in the postseason, you're not going to do any good out there," Wacha said. "So you try to think that you're going to have a spot on this rotation for the postseason and prepare yourself for that."
Even when you're in the minor leagues, which is where Wacha was in August? Or when you're pitching against college teams, which Wacha was doing 16 months ago?
"Even back [then] you've got to think about being a good pitcher in the postseason and set your expectations high," he said. "And my expectation in
"We haven't met those expectations yet."
Of course, the big-budget, star-studded Dodgers had those same Texas-sized expectations. But Friday there can be just one lone star: either Wacha, who can pitch the Cardinals into the Series with a victory, or Kershaw, who can force a decisive Game 7 if he wins.
Neither pitcher fits the mold of the typical Texas gunslinger, a stereotype popularized by such cocky hard-throwers as Nolan Ryan,
And unlike the boastful Beckett and the brash Clemens, Kershaw and Wacha are quiet and mature beyond their years.
There are differences. With his two victories this month, Wacha, a 22-year-old right-hander, already has more postseason wins than Kershaw, a 25-year-old left-hander who is 1-2 in four postseason series.
"You learn from experience," said Kershaw, who has won 77 big league games in six seasons and will probably claim his second
He's pitching better now. In three playoff starts this year he has given up one earned run in 19 innings, striking out 23. He has only won once, though, losing to Wacha in Game 2 despite holding the Cardinals to two hits and an unearned run.
Still, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the veteran from the rookie — and maybe that's because of the circumstances. Kershaw, who is pitching to extend his team's season at least a day, goes about his work serious and unsmiling.
Wacha, who is pitching to send his team to the World Series, wears a permanent grin and answers questions with cliches — most of which begin reflexively with the words "I mean."
"It's the fun time of the season," Wacha said with a grin. "My job is just to go out there and try to win a ballgame. And that's the plan going into it."