By Bill Shaikin
5:28 PM PDT, October 11, 2013
ST. LOUIS – If Michael Wacha is the latest man about town in this baseball-crazed town, he hasn’t discovered it yet.
“I still go to Target,” he said Friday. “I still go to the grocery store. Nobody really notices me or anything like that.”
The Dodgers will take notice of Wacha on Saturday, when he starts for the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. The Pittsburgh Pirates took plenty of notice of him in Game 4 of the division series, when Wacha threw 7 1/3 no-hit innings in the Cardinals’ 2-1 victory on Monday.
The tired theme of “postseason experience” rears its head every fall. Wacha is the latest to knock that lazy narrative on its rear end.
Wacha is 22. The Cardinals selected him in the first round of last year’s draft with – and you will probably hear this a time or two on television – the compensation pick for the loss of Albert Pujols.
He made his major league debut in May. He started three games, returned to the minor leagues for limited work, came back in August as a relief pitcher. The Cardinals limited his innings in the summer so they could keep him fresh and ready for the fall.
In 15 major league appearances –- nine starts -– he went 4-1 with a 2.78 earned-run average.
So his postseason debut – and the no-hitter he took into the eighth inning – came in the 10th start of his major league career.
“They really limited my innings,” Wacha said. “So I think it kind of made sense, to where I could throw innings in the postseason here instead of being shut down right now.”
Wacha has thrown 157 innings this year, including his time in the minor leagues. Stephen Strasburg threw 183 innings last season, when the Washington Nationals shut him down in September. The Nationals had all but clinched a playoff spot by then, but they did not get out of the first round of the playoffs.
Wacha has come so far so fast that it is easy to overlook that he started last season in college. He never has faced the Dodgers. But he laughed off the suggestion that he might have studied more about the Dodgers hitters over the past two days than he did in college.
“I probably studied about even,” he said. “Texas A&M is a pretty tough college, so you have to study for those exams pretty good.”
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