Michael Wacha enjoys his no-no near-miss

ST. LOUIS -- On Michael Wacha’s ninth career start and just 15th major league appearance, he was one out away from a no-hitter.

Wacha, 22, said he knew from the first inning he had a no-hitter going.

“You know if you give up a hit or not,” said Wacha giving an honest assessment about what he was feeling during the game. “I was just going out there every inning, just pounding the strike zone.”

As the game continued, he said, he kept focusing on the fact that this was an important game for the Cardinals to win.

“That [is] just the main focus coming out right now -- this last week of baseball, every win is crucial, so that was just the mindset going into this game,” Wacha said. “Let’s win this game and stay in first place.”

Wacha cruised through the first four innings, but then in the fifth with two outs, Adam LaRoche reached base on a fielding error by second baseman Matt Carpenter. Wacha didn’t unravel after LaRoche reached base, though. On a 96 mph fastball Wilson Ramos lined out to right fielder Carlos Beltran for the final out of the inning.

“Wow. The stuff, the composure,” manager Mike Matheny said about Wacha’s night after the game. “He was able to tune everything out. For a kid to do that against a lineup like this at this time of the season, it’s hard to really get your head around that.”

In the sixth with two outs Denard Span tried to bunt his way on base. The ball came down the line to third baseman David Freese.

“I was going to barehand it to first, then I saw it moving. I was going to let it go and, you know, the stadium let Denard [Span] know how they felt about that,” Freese said referring to the fans booing Span. “I think I just had to scamper after it. Once I got it in the mitt, I wasn’t nervous.”

Span ended up grounding to second baseman Matt Carpenter for the final out of the inning.

After Ryan Zimmerman walked to lead off the seventh, Wacha retired the next three batters, but it was the moment in the eighth inning when the ball soared through the air off Anthony Rendon’s bat that the crowd at Busch Stadium held their breath ... right up until left fielder Shane Robinson made a great catch for the final out of the eighth inning.

“It was a pretty special night,” Wacha said. “The defense was playing great behind me. That’s the only reason I was able to go that long, because Shane Robinson is making great plays. I mean, everyone on the field was making plays. It was just an unbelievable night.”

Steve Lombardozzi grounded out for the first out, then Span was called out on strikes, but Ryan Zimmerman singled on a ground ball that just tipped Wacha’s glove. Pete Kozma tried to get the out at first, but Zimmerman was safe.

“He made a heck of an effort on it,” Wacha said about Kozma's throw.

“I think we all kind had a smile on our face because we knew what kind of outing Wacha just threw out there,” Freese said. “And more importantly, getting that win so young in the big leagues, and he’s so mature for his lack of time up here. It’s a huge win at this point in the season.”

The Cardinals come into the clubhouse confident and ready to win each game, Freese said, and Wacha showcased one of the reasons why on Tuesday night, keeping the Cardinals in first place two games ahead of Pittsburgh.

“We understand what’s at stake,” Freese said. “We understand that we kind of control our own destiny, but tonight it’s Michael Wacha’s night.”

Wacha said everything about Tuesday night felt great, even the ice bath at the end of the game.

“It was cold, but it was a good cold,” Wacha reflected.