It's no secret that St. Louis has the odds against them. In World Series games since 1980, home teams in Game 6 and Game 7 have a .846 win percentage according to Thomas Boswell, Washington Post. Those teams weren't facing Michael Wacha, who will dominate the Red Sox tonight with unique stuff, a clutch gene and great approach.
Avoiding David Ortiz might be a good idea as well.
Ortiz is clearly having a historic offensive postseason. Wacha, though, is having an equally historic pitching postseason.
Only Randy Johnson in 2001 and Francisco Rodriguez in 2002 have more wins in a single postseason. Johnson needed to earn one in relief and Rodriguez was a full-time reliever. Wacha would become the first starter to record five wins.
The Wacha vs. Ortiz match-up is certainly the one to watch. Both are putting up numbers that are off the charts, but will Ortiz even see a strike?
Pitching around Ortiz doesn't sound like Wacha's style. "What can you say, he's a good hitter," Wacha said of Ortiz, who is hitting .733 in the World Series, via Albert Chen, Sports Illustrated, "but you just keep attacking, and you keep battling."
A battle that Ortiz won last time with a two-run home run off an elevated changeup. The Cardinals were still able to escape with a win and Wacha has learned from Ortiz bomb.
"I left some pitches up," Wacha said via Chen, Sports Illustrated. "I wasn't real sharp command-wise. I need to sharpen things up. I'll learn from my experience."
Other than the Ortiz home run, Wacha was brilliant. In fact, he was scoreless throughout his previous 18.2 innings pitched. Avoiding that mistake this time will be what advances the Cardinals into a decisive Game 7.
The Red Sox, however, have seen their first glimpse of Wacha and might have some clues to figure out the rookie stud. Don't count on it.
"While the Sox likely expect to have a better plan of attack against Wacha this time around, let’s not forget that they are batting .205 as a team in these first five games. A pitcher like Wacha can work with that." wrote Michael Silverman, Boston Herald.
A pitcher like Wacha can make quick work of that. And he should be pitching rather freely, even with the magnitude of the situation.
SI.com's Michael Rosenberg and Albert Chen point out that Wacha has the benefit of already having a great postseason. Regardless of what he does in Game 6 he'll still be a breakout star.
In Game 6 Wacha will use a mix of pitches to stymy the Red Sox's offense. Wacha's plus fastball and sharp curve fool hitters and his changeup keeps batters off balance. Aside from the elevated changeup to Ortiz it's been a great pitch for Wacha when he controls it.
Without question Wacha's stuff is dominating, thanks in large part to his 6' 6" frame.
"Michael's stuff is above average, mostly because it's a little different,'' Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said via Jorge L. Ortiz, USA Today. "He comes from such a high slot that he's getting a deeper angle on his pitches."
A high slot and arm swing that compare favorably to NL Cy Young favorite Clayton Kershaw.
The same Clayton Kershaw that Wacha defeated twice in the NLCS.
The Red Sox faithful will surely be as loud and alive as ever before. Wacha isn't likely to be phased much. Especially, having already pitched in front of a similar crowd in Game 2.
''I'll keep going about my business the way I have been in all my starts this year. And not worry about the crowd," Wacha said via Larry Fine, Chicago Tribune, "just get locked in with Yadi behind the plate and just make my pitches.''
It's that simple. Just make his pitches and the Cardinals should cruise to Game 7.
Yes, St. Louis has the cards stacked against them. Lukcily, they have one more ace up their sleeve. It'll come down to whether or not any of the other Cardinals show up. Wacha will need defense, some run support and most likely a bullpen at some point. Wacha will do his part.
"Some people are meant for the big moments, he's responded really well to them.'' Cardinals' Adam Wainwright said of Wacha via Ortiz, USA Today.
The biggest moments call for the biggest response.
Enter Michael Wacha.