With new formula, Wacha races to 5-0 record

Right-hander striking out fewer batters, working on cutter, changeup

With new formula, Wacha races to 5-0 record

PITTSBURGH -- With his fifth quality start of the season in the Cards' 8-5 win over the Bucs on Friday, Michael Wacha joined New York's Matt Harvey and Los Angeles' Zack Greinke as the only National League pitchers to open the year with wins in each of their first five decisions.

Wacha's 5-0 start has hushed the health questions that shadowed him throughout spring and reminded the league of his potential when his shoulder is right. He's also finding success with a different formula.

After opening his career dazzling with a changeup-fastball mix, Wacha continues to flash an effective curveball and cutter, two pitches that he has further developed over the past year. He struck out third baseman Pedro Alvarez on a curve with two aboard to end the third. He stranded two more with a one-run lead in the sixth when Jordy Mercer popped up a cutter.

"I'm really happy with where everything is," Wacha said after allowing three runs (two earned) over six innings. "I'm just continuing to work on the command and control of them in between starts. I feel confident in all of them right now. Just continue to work on the command of them and when to throw them."

Wacha's enhanced repertoire has led to more early-count contact, which, in turn, has cut down on the strikeouts. That's by no means a concern to the Cardinals, but merely an indication of how much more versatile the right-hander can be. After striking out 159 over 171 2/3 innings in his first two big league seasons, Wacha has 19 over 38 2/3 to open this year.

Alvarez was his only strikeout victim on Friday.

"We like the strikeout, but it's not the definition, in our minds, of a successful outing," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's got the velocity. He's got the ability to strike somebody out. … The strikeouts are going to be there. I don't want to change a thing with him."

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.