Wacha changes up approach to keep Reds off balance

Wacha changes up approach to keep Reds off balance

ST. LOUIS -- Though the final line (a quality start with five hits and one run allowed in seven innings) matched the one he posted in a start against the Reds a week ago, Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha went with a different look against the same opponent in Friday's 6-1 win.

Perhaps that was why he could match the success despite the Reds' familiarity with his repertoire.

Wacha was less reliant on his changeup, throwing as many (14) in this 103-pitch effort as he did in a 76-pitch start in Cincinnati a week ago. Friday's changeup percentage (13.6) was significantly lower than his career mark of 21.9, and the pitch produced just three outs, far fewer than usual for a righty who describes that as his bread-and-butter pitch. He threw just four after the third inning.

Matheny on Wacha, Carpenter

Instead, Wacha pounded the Reds' offense with fastballs and mixed in his improving curveball and cutter as needed. In other words, he didn't give the Reds what they were anticipating.

"He's able to elevate his fastball. He's a good low-ball pitcher that knows how to elevate his fastball when he gets ahead," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He's given us some challenges and we just have to take advantage of what we get when we get it."

Wacha's ability to locate lower in the zone also helped him balance his pitch count. With the Reds fouling off a slew of pitches, Wacha's pitch count ran to 54 through three innings. He threw 49 over the next four frames.

"Early on, I was a little jumpy," Wacha said. "I think I was a little too excited out there, leaving balls up in the zone."

Wacha improved to 3-1 with a 2.01 ERA in eight career games (seven starts) against Cincinnati.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.