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Will 22-year-old right-hander Michael Wacha crack the Cardinals’ postseason rotation?

Sep 25, 2013, 12:31 AM EDT

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Beyond ace Adam Wainwright, there isn’t much certainty about which starters the Cardinals will choose to use this postseason. Michael Wacha might have provided some on Tuesday night.

Wacha, a 22-year-old first-round pick in 2012, came one out from no-hitting a good Nationals lineup in front of a packed house at Busch Stadium, using a changeup that drew high praise after the game from Ryan Zimmerman and a high-90s fastball to set the table. “”The changeup is so good,” Zimmerman admired to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.

St. Louis is two games up on Pittsburgh in the National League Central standings with five days left in the regular season and at least assured of a spot in the NL Wild Card Game. If the Cardinals finish strong — they end with a weekend series against the last-place Cubs — it’ll be straight to a five-game NLDS. That’s when some tough decisions will have to be made by second-year Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.

A major league team will typically carry a three- or four-man rotation into a five-game Division Series. Outside of likely NLDS Game 1 starter Adam Wainwright, Matheny’s current regular-season staff is a mixed bag. Lance Lynn has been solid in three straight starts but his 4.09 ERA is the highest of Matheny’s four non-Wainwright options. Joe Kelly allowed only a handful of runs from early-July to mid-September but his peripheral numbers aren’t as promising and he was shaky this past weekend in Milwaukee. Shelby Miller, who’s had a not-as-good second half, also ran into problems against a 70-87 fourth-place Brewers team.

Miller, Kelly and Lynn will all pitch this week, and they’ll all have to perform well to fend off Wacha for the chance to start an October game. Or maybe it’s already too late. Wacha now boasts a 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 65 strikeouts through his first 64 2/3 major league innings. The righty out of Texas A&M had a 2.29 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 113/23 K/BB ratio in 106 minor league frames. All signs point to his success continuing.

  1. bmh9500 - Sep 25, 2013 at 1:01 AM

    Wacha Wacha

  2. savior72 - Sep 25, 2013 at 1:14 AM

    Shut up fozzie!

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  4. paperlions - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    I don’t think it matters that much. In a short series, you can carry all 5 guys and use one or more as long relievers or to replace a starter that is struggling. In the regular season, teams typically let starters pitch until they are out of gas and get knocked around (or until the batters have seen their stuff enough to better ID pitches and make better contact). In the post season, in close games, teams pull guys much earlier….having that many guys (including Martinez, who is already in the pen) that can throw multiple innings is a plus….and any guy that doesn’t get a start may be needed to throw a lot of innings anyway.

  5. stlouis1baseball - Sep 25, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    What Paper said.

  6. cardinalcrazy - Sep 25, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    I really don’t think Lance Lynn should be on the post-season roster. Sure he’s done better as of late, but each time he’s out there you don’t know if you’re going to get Jeckyl or Hyde. Point being we truly don’t need a five man rotation for a 5 game series because you should only need three starters, using the fourth one in case one that really struggles.

    • stlouis1baseball - Sep 25, 2013 at 11:37 AM

      I hear what you are saying with regards to the starting. But keeping him off the roster entirely would be one of the dumbest moves I have ever seen. Dude can (and I expect WILL) be a dominant force out of the pen. This is assuming they don’t include him in the starting rotation of course.

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