A crowd of over 44,000 rose to its feet Saturday afternoon, Michael Wacha just three outs away from history.
With an 0-2 count to Pirates pinch-hitter Colin Moran, it appeared Wacha had the 25th out of the ballgame locked up. A misplaced changeup, a rare mistake and Moran broke up the no-hitter with a soft line drive over the head of Kolten Wong.
“It was a day where I got away with mistakes,” Wacha said. “The few I had I was getting away with, but I couldn’t get away from that one… I was pissed at myself. I feel like I need to make a better pitch right there, and I hold myself accountable for not making a better 0-2 pitch there in that situation.”
Throughout Wacha’s dominant performance, he successfully changed speeds and commanded the strike zone. His ability to throw curveballs for the first strike of at-bats and pinpointing his fastball proved nearly un-hittable.
He threw 111 pitches over eight innings, striking out eight and gave up the lone hit to Moran. Wacha continued a hot streak he’s been on, the 26-year-old hasn’t lost a game since his first start of the season and is now tied for third in the National League with seven wins.
While the Cardinals won a crucial series with a 5-0 victory Sunday afternoon, the disappointment of losing a no-hitter so late was all too familiar a feeling for Wacha, who lost one with an out to go against the Nationals in 2013.
“I’ve flirted with [a no-hitter] a couple times in my career,” Wacha said. “I’m a competitor and I want that for sure, but at the end of the day, we got a big W for us.”
A big “W” it was, indeed.
Marcell Ozuna roped a no-doubt grand slam in the bottom of the first to help the Cardinals jump out to a 4-0 lead before opposing pitcher Nick Kingham could record a single out. Fellow outfielder Tommy Pham added a pair of singles as well.
“I felt it on my bat,” Ozuna said. “When I hit it, I knew it was gone.”
The Cardinals escaped a tough 10-game stretch with a respectable 6-4 record — each of those games against NL Central teams with a winning record. For a team sitting third, just 3.5 games back in the division, going above .500 through that stretch was vital, especially with three winnable series ahead .
A nine game stretch next features three teams at the bottom of their respective divisions.
The Cardinals’ current home stand concludes with a three-game series against the Miami Marlins (20-39). The team will then travel to Cincinnati (21-39) for a quick three-game road trip and come back home to face the San Diego Padres (27-34) three times before a big series against the Chicago Cubs.
Carlos Martinez and Yadier Molina are scheduled to make their debuts from their stints on the disabled list at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at Busch Stadium. Martinez (3-2, 1.62 ERA) will take the mound against Marlins starter Jose Ureña (0-7, 4.41 ERA).