|Cards' Wacha heating up, eyes sweep of Rockies|
The St. Louis Cardinals are surging at the right time, and pitcher Michael Wacha is showing he belongs for the stretch run.
The Cardinals, after a 6-0 victory over the visiting Colorado Rockies on Saturday night, have won six of their last seven and increased their National League Central lead over the Chicago Cubs to 1 1/2 games. They have won the first three of a four-game weekend series against Colorado.
Wacha, back in the rotation, takes the mound Sunday to go for the sweep.
The Rockies are expected to recall right-hander Antonio Senzatela from Triple-A Albuquerque to pitch Sunday.
Both hurlers are trying to re-establish themselves at this level, and Wacha (6-6, 5.22 ERA) seems to have done that. He was pitching out of the bullpen after a poor start at Seattle on July 4 but returned to the rotation on Aug. 5. He got roughed up by the Los Angeles Dodgers that day, but in his last two starts, he has allowed just two runs in nine innings.
He pitched four scoreless innings against Milwaukee on Tuesday and could prove to be a valuable starter down the stretch.
"Michael Wacha has demonstrated in high-leverage situations, the highest-leverage situations, to be a very, very effective Major League pitcher," St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said this week. "The last three starts have been more than quality.
"Michael Wacha is a guy who is ready for the big stage, wants the big stage and has seen the big stage. So, if he pitches like he's capable, we're confident having him out there."
Wacha, who is 1-1 with a 5.18 ERA in five career outings (four starts) against the Rockies, will face a Colorado lineup that features some strong hitters but has not been able to compensate for an injured and ineffective pitching staff. The Rockies have lost three starters who were the front end of the rotation at the beginning of the year as well as their most effective reliever, closer Scott Oberg.
That has forced the organization to switch gears from competing for a playoff spot to evaluating talent for the future. On Friday night manager Bud Black used a lot of youth in the 8-3 loss to St. Louis.
"This is a learning curve for a number of guys," Black said after Friday's game. "We had five rookies play today, three position players. These guys are learning on the job in the big leagues. This is a good thing for them to play in these types of games against a contending team, to continue to learn what this is all about."
Senzatela (8-7, 6.29) has a chance to make a good impression in the final five weeks of 2019. He made a strong season debut in April and pitched well in June (4-1, 3.44 ERA in six starts) but his 17.18 ERA in three July starts earned him a ticket to the minors to work out his issues.
Sunday he will be able to show if the trip to Albuquerque paid off against a team he is 1-2 with a 4.84 ERA in four career starts.
--Field Level Media