MORE: Game 2 GameTracker
Coming into Game 2 of the World Series against the Red Sox, Cardinals rookie right-hander Michael Wacha had allowed only one run and 12 base-runners in 21 postseason innings. Wacha has been generally dominant since being returned to the rotation in early September, but during the 2013 playoffs he's been on an even higher plane.
So what's different? With the necessary caveat that we're talking about just three postseason starts, Wacha in October has been leaning much more heavily on his curve. Here's a chart from the essential Brooks Baseball tracking his curveball usage in this, his debut season:
Wacha is still a fastball-changeup pitcher, but he's significantly increased his use of the curve since the end of the regular season. In fact, of the 90 curves Wacha had thrown coming into Thursday night, 38 have come in the last three starts.
On that front, 32 of those 38 postseason curve balls have been thrown to right-handed batters. In the regular season, Wacha was essentially a two-pitch pitcher, with his plus-plus fastball and his plus-plus changeup. Those two offerings were enough to limit the opposite side to a paltry .493 OPS. Right-handed batters, however, put up a much more respectable .710 OPS against Wacha. Perhaps, then, he's been flashing that curve against right-handers in the postseason for that very reason. It's not as effective as his fastball and changeup, but it's enough to keep right-handed batters from completely homing in his two out pitches.
Sometimes, of course, he simply doesn't need it. The 6-foot-6 Wacha has a strong downward angle on his fastball and changeup, and he and catcher Yadier Molina do a good job of changing levels from time to time, which keeps hitters guessing. But a third pitch is always useful, even when your other two pitches are as good as Wacha's.
Insofar as Game 2 and the Red Sox are concerned, Wacha isn't yet following the gameplan that worked so well in the NLDS and NLCS. He didn't throw his first curve of the night until Stephen Drew stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third. Two batters later, he threw another curve, this one to Jacoby Ellsbury-- both left-handed hitters, it should be noted. So of his 53 pitches, just two have been curves (both called strikes) as of the end of the third. With that said, it's likely that Wacha will flash his curve more often as he works through the order a second and, presumably, third time.
If his prior three starts are any guide, then the Red Sox are going to see more curveballs from Wacha over the remainder of Game 2.