In order to keep their playoff hopes alive, St. Louis will depend on rookie pitcher Michael Wacha to perform in the biggest game of his career.
The 22-year-old from Texas A&M earned the right to start after his near-no hitter in his last outing against the Washington Nationals. Wacha was dominant for 8.2 innings giving up no hits until Ryan Zimmerman hit an infield single in the ninth inning to break the clean sheet.
Wacha has an arsenal of pitches in his pocket, but none deadlier than his change-up.
His confidence in this pitch was demonstrated when he threw four straight change-ups against Ryan Zimmerman in his last performance. With speeds reaching in the upper-90s, Wacha’s change-up deceives itself as a fastball making it one tough pitch to handle.
In his last start against Pirates earlier in September, Wacha pitched seven innings without giving a single run.
On the other hand, it’s amazing that Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton is even able to take the mound tonight. After being inactive for nearly a year due to a Tommy John surgery in June 2011, it was questionable if Morton would even make it back into the Pirates deep lineup. However, Morton has slowly worked his way back into the rotation and finds himself starting in his first playoff game of his career.
While Morton has momentum on his side, finishing the last 11 games of the regular season with a 2.67 ERA, he has struggled against the Cardinals this season. In two of his three starts against St. Louis, he gave up five runs and has an alarming 6.52 era in the 14 starts of his career.
Morton will mainly rely on his sinker, but has also tuned up his curveball and splitter with the help of general manager Jim Benedict.
It will be interesting to see if inexperience will play a hand in the match-up between Wacha and Morton. While the pressure is on Wacha, in this win or go home match, it has been the rookie's self-confidence that has got him the start.
Morton, on the other hand, has the opportunity the close out the series. It will be a crucial game for the Pirates because, as MLB analyst Dan Plesac points out, winning game five at St. Louis will be a very difficult task.