The St. Louis Cardinals find themselves in territory that is all too familiar. The Pittsburgh Pirates have won two of the first three games of the National League Division Series matchup. The Cardinals now must win their next two games or their season will come to a close.
Through the first three games of the series, the Cardinals have shown a strong desire to rely on the experience of their veteran players in the postseason. I took an in-depth look at that fact a few days ago right here on Bleacher Report.
The Cardinals' 2013 season hangs in the balance on Monday night. A team built on experience and supported by a young cast of players will now turn to one of the least experienced players on the roster to win one more game.
Michael Wacha is scheduled to pitch Game 4 of the NLDS.
Wacha made his major league debut on May 30 of this year. He did not become a permanent part of the St. Louis roster until August 10. He has a grand total of 15 appearances in his major league career and only nine of those are starts. He was drafted by the Cardinals in 2012 and signed his first professional contract in June of that year.
Now he will take the field in the biggest game of his young career.
Wacha has shown signs of brilliance, including a near no-hitter that was broken up with two outs in the ninth inning on September 24th against the Washington Nationals in St. Louis.
That does not mean that he has been consistent. Going back to just one start earlier will reveal a game at Colorado where Wacha failed to finish the fifth inning, surrendering 12 hits and 4 runs in a contest his team would eventually lose.
"Just trying to approach it just like any other start and just trying to do the same stuff," Wacha said of his outlook for Monday. "Just go out there and attack the zone, get in pitcher's counts. That way, I can make my pitch. That way, I'm not falling behind. Really, just go out there and attack them."
The must-win game will surely see the Cardinals use an "all hands on deck" mentality. Shelby Miller, who appeared in relief in Game 2, will be available out of the bullpen should Wacha get into any trouble. Any number of relievers will be prepared to come into the game and ensure that the Cardinals get one more game in St. Louis to defend their 2013 season. Matheny will surely keep a close eye on the youngster and not be afraid to pull him at the first sign of trouble.
"Tomorrow the guys will be ready to go. And we'll put our best game out there." -Mike Matheny— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) October 7, 2013
Ultimately, the Cardinals have their backs against the wall in a must-win game. They are down to their final loss and could conceivably find themselves down to their last out or last strike. Then again, that's a position they have been in before. You need look no further than the Facebook of John Vuch, Farm Director of the St. Louis Cardinals, to see that the organization knows right where they are:
Tough game - but as we've seen the last couple years, that last win (and sometimes final out and final strike) of a series can be awfully hard to come by. Back at 'em tomorrow and let's see what happens...
The Cardinals have been here before. The Pirates seem determined to match them run-for-run and hit-for-hit along the way. The fans at PNC Park are emphatically ready to see their team win and move forward. Monday is the most recent of the numerous times the Cardinals have known that they must win.
This is what October baseball is all about.
All statistics quoted in this article come from Baseball-Reference.com.
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