ST. LOUIS (AP) — Take it from the Cincinnati Reds: Michael Wacha's breakout postseason was no fluke.
In his first two starts for the St. Louis Cardinals, the 6-foot-6 right-hander has stared down one of the National League's top lineups. Just like last fall, he's been impervious to pressure, too.
After the Reds mustered a single run in 12 2-3 frustrating innings against the 22-year-old Wacha, Jay Bruce said it was like facing a carbon copy of Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, also lean and lanky and among the majors' best pitchers for several years.
On the rare occasions you get a pitch to your liking, Bruce said, you'd better not miss.
"It's been pretty well-documented about how good he is for the past year and a half," the Reds' Ryan Ludwick said. "He got into situations and got out of them and kept runs off the board."
Seeing a pitcher in consecutive starts should help opposing hitters. Better than seeing it on videotape, the repertoire, arm angle and velocity are all fresh in the mind.
It didn't help the Los Angeles Dodgers last fall when they didn't score a run in two NL championship series starts over 13 2-3 innings against Wacha. The Reds saw more curveballs and change-ups the second time around against Wacha.
"When his changeup is in the strike zone down, it's really tough," Ludwick said. "He's added a baby cutter, like all these guys over there do. He's young, he's a competitor and he's tough to beat."
Before the home opener, manager Mike Matheny scoffed off a question about the possibility Wacha might get too pumped up.
There was a lot more riding on the kid's shoulders last October, he reminded, when Wacha twice outpitched Clayton Kershaw and was picked the NL championship series MVP, and in the division series when he carried a no-hitter into the eighth of a do-or-die Game 4 in Pittsburgh.
Wacha waited out a rain delay of two hours and 40 minutes his first start this year before dominating in Cincinnati.
"There's things going on around the outside and yeah, he's going to see parades and horses and all kinds of stuff going on," Matheny said. "He's done a real nice job, especially for a young pitcher, of understanding what he's got to do to get ready for the game.
"Don't be completely oblivious to it, but don't let it get in the way of what you need to do," he said.