'I'm setting the bar too high, man': Wacha's no-hitter flirtations raise expectations

News-DemocratOctober 8, 2013 

— St. Louis Cardinals rookie right-hander Michael Wacha joked Tuesday that coming close to throwing two no-hitters might be spoiling fans.

"I'm setting the bar too high, man. It's been pretty unbelievable, these last two starts," Wacha said with a laugh.

Wacha spoke with the media after the Cardinals worked out at Busch Stadium in preparation for the deciding Game 5 of the National League Division Series at 7:07 p.m. Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Wacha had a no-hitter until one out in the eighth inning Monday when the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez homered. Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal followed Wacha to the mound and finished the Cardinals' 2-1 victory in Game 4.

"The adrenaline was definitely pumping," Wacha said. "It was a lot of fun. I was pretty jacked up, for sure. You can't let the adrenaline just take over your body. You've got to be able to control it ... and use it to your advantage in that situation."

Wacha previously lost his bid for a no-hitter against the Washington Nationals with two outs in the ninth inning Sept. 24 when Ryan Zimmerman reached on an infield single.

Wacha said the near no-hitters haven't necessarily boosted his confidence, which already was high.

"I always go out there and pitch with confidence, whether I'm getting hit around or whether I'm throwing a no-hitter into the seventh," Wacha said. "You just go out there and try to stay focused and execute the pitch that's called."

Bullpen variables

Two regular-season starters, Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn, will be available to work out of the bullpen Wednesday if needed.

Miller was bounced from the rotation by Lynn in the NLDS, with Lynn taking the Game 2 loss Friday.

Miller, who has pitched in just one game this postseason, isn't enamored with his role as a reliever, something that's understandable considering he was a 15-game winner with a regular role during the season.

"It's kind of weird because you never know what days you're going to pitch (and) the schedule is a little different," he said. "I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible and when my time comes, be ready. ... I'm pretty much taking it day by day."

Miller said he could slip back into a starter's role "pretty easy." But if the Cardinals reach the NL Championship Series against Los Angeles, Joe Kelly, Wacha and Adam Wainwright likely would pitch the first three games.

"I just feel like I haven't thrown in forever," Miller said. "The thing is, I think just one bullpen would get me back to where I need to be. We'll see what happens."

Craig update

First baseman/right fielder Allen Craig has been reduced to bystanding in the NLDS with a sprained left foot.

"I'm sure it's been real tough," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's tough when you put in the amount of work he's put in, the amount he's contributed to our club, what he's meant to us, to now sit and not be able to do anything about it."

Matheny said Craig's condition is improving.

"You just never know how it's going to play out," he said. "So we're going to remain optimistic. I know he's progressing how he's supposed to be progressing now, but (there's been) no major change."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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