Text by Paul Doyle, Hartford Courant; video by Tim Lammers, Fox CT
BOSTON — Michael Wacha was wearing a Texas A&M baseball uniform as recently as 16 months ago.
He ended his college career on June 1, 2012, with a 119-pitch, 7 1/3 inning outing in a victory over Dayton in the NCAA Regionals. Three days later, he was selected by the Cardinals with the 19th overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft.
On Thursday night, he’ll be standing on the mound at Fenway Park as the starting pitcher in Game 2 of the World Series. It has been a meteoric rise for the pitcher selected with the compensation draft pick that St. Louis received for losing Albert Pujols to the Angels in free agency.
“I’m just trying not to think too much about it, just trying to approach every game the same,” Wacha said Wednesday. “Trying not to get too caught up in the moment. I’m sure after the season I’ll be able to look back and think about, ‘Hey, I pitched in the World Series’ and that kind of stuff. So, you know, right now just trying to get focused on the next start coming up [Thursday] and just go from there.”
Wacha was 5-3 with a 2.65 ERA in 15 starts for Triple-A Memphis this year. He earned a promotion to the major leagues and settled into the Cardinals rotation, going 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA in 15 games, including nine starts.
In his last regular season start, Wacha carried a no-hitter into the ninth against the Nationals. Ryan Zimmerman’s two-out infield hit ended the bid.
In the postseason, the legend of Wacha has grown. He was 3-0, 0.43 ERA in three starts — one against the Pirates in the Division Series, two against the Dodgers in the Championship Series — and he earned MVP of the NLCS.
His numbers against the Dodgers: 13 2/3 innings, no runs, 13 strikeouts. It was a life-changing run.
“It was pretty much the same until after this last start in the NLCS,” Wacha said. “But, yeah, I went to go eat at a little restaurant and I had a milkshake named after me, and that was pretty weird. So I had to try that out; it was pretty good.”
The “Wacha Wacha” shake at Fozzie’s Sandwich Emporium featured Cracker Jack, caramel and white chocolate.
The sudden notoriety could be too much to handle for a 22-year-old, but Wacha is unfazed. On and off the mound, he carried himself with maturity.
“Michael understands himself,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He understands his stuff. And we talked about this a lot yesterday, about how our veterans have created an atmosphere where young guys can come in and just do what they’ve been doing, and not trying to do anything above what they’re capable of. And Michael’s done a nice job of buying into that philosophy.”
Sox Roster Won’t Change
The Red Sox made no changes to their 25-man roster. There had been speculation that lefthander Matt Thornton could be added, perhaps in place of lefthander Franklin Morales (two hits, one walk in one inning in the ALCS). Thornton threw off the mound during Tuesday’s workout.
Clay Buchholz’s health was also considered a concern, but manager John Farrell insists that Buchholz will start either Game 3 or Game 4 in St. Louis. Jake Peavy will start the other game.
Farrell penciled in David Ross at catcher for Game 1 and Jonny Gomes started in left field, leaving Daniel Nava on the bench. Nava could see the field in St. Louis this weekend.
“With more ground to cover in St. Louis, that will be something that will be factored in with the lineup over there, in addition to the righthanders we’ll face there,” Farrell said. “At the same time Daniel Nava, as we sat down and talked a couple of times and given my thoughts and rationale behind some of the decisions, he’s on board and very much a team player. He admits and recognizes to his credit that this is about us as a team and not an individual.”
Bogaerts Gets Nod
Xander Bogaerts was again in the starting lineup at third base. The 21-year-old Bogaerts (3-for-6 with three walks in the ALCS) became the youngest player to appear in a World Series game since 20-year-old Miguel Cabrera played in the 2003 World Series for the Florida Marlins. “He’s not a typical 21-year-old,” Farrell said. “We’ve talked a lot about the poise, the presence, the composure in which he plays. Even in the tightest moments, the smile never seems to leave his face. He might be flying on the inside, but externally there’s no outward anxious moments.” … The ceremonial first pitch was tossed by Carl Yastrzemski, who was recently honored with a statue outside Fenway Park. … The Red Sox completed a trade on the day of Game 1. Triple A outfielder Jeremy Hazelbacker was sent to the Dodgers with cash for outfielder Alex Castellanos, who played eight games with Los Angeles and had 19 home runs and 19 stolen bases for Triple-A Albuquerque.