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Red Sox very unfamiliar with new ace Michael Wacha

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

No one on the Red Sox has ever faced Michael Wacha.
No one on the Red Sox has ever faced Michael Wacha. (USATSI)

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BOSTON -- Is Cardinals Game 2 starter Michael Wacha an ace?

My answer to that question right now is yes, and he's going to get to prove as much to a Red Sox team that doesn't really know much about him.

"I know he throws hard," said Shane Victorino. "I haven't seen or studied much of him."

He's not alone. Not a single player on the Red Sox roster has ever faced Wacha in big-league play. Conventional wisdom says a situation like that generally favors the pitcher.

"Here and there you get to see him on TV," Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew said when asked if he knew anything about Wacha. "But it's not like being in the box. When you step in the box for the first time against a guy, it's totally new."

And Wacha is absolutely locked in right now.

Since rejoining the rotation heading into September, he's made eight starts. He's gone 5-1 with a 1.20 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings. That's including three playoff games in which he's only allowed one run -- a solo homer by Pedro Alvarez, and there's no shame in that -- while also beating Clayton Kershaw twice in the same series. He's twice flirted with no-hitters and has been nearly unhittable for the past four starts.

That, to me, means we can call him an ace for this World Series. Even if he humbly disagrees.

"I wouldn't say (I'm) the ace," Wacha, the NLCS MVP, said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. "We got one of those in Wainwright. Maybe in a couple years or so I might be able to be dubbed something along those lines."

If we want to discuss that he needs to do more to prove himself before calling him an "ace" next spring, I'd agree with the argument and with him. But he only has two starts (maximum) left against an opponent that knows very little about him. I am absolutely considering him a second ace in this series. Amazingly, this is only about a year and a half since Wacha was pitching for Texas A&M.

"How many kids are you able to pull out of college and 18 months later be able to be able to throw them in a pennant rush and be there for the push and be ready to stand up and be ready to contribute?" Cardinals manager Mike Matheny rhetorically asked when discussing Wacha's postseason.

The easy answer to that question is "not many."

So the Red Sox have the tall order of figuring him out on the fly. They'll do the only thing they really can do.

"We'll watch video," first baseman Mike Napoli said. "Maybe talk to a couple guys that I know who played in the National League. Basically you're gonna get a scouting report, watch video and try to get an idea of what he's gonna try to do."

Again, it'll be a tall order. Not that the Red Sox have never toppled an ace before.

"He's done some great things so far. He finished real well," Mike Carp said. "Down the stretch, he was one of the most talked about pitchers on the National League side."

True, but ...

"But our offense is tough to pitch to. Detroit did their best and did about as good a job as anyone could do."

Correct. In the ALCS, the Red Sox won three games that were started by either Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer. Aces. True, battle-tested, proven aces.

But they'd seen those guys before. They haven't seen Wacha.

The entire series should be fun and intriguing, but I'm especially excited to see how things go for Wacha and the Red Sox offense in Game 2 and hopefully again in Game 6.

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