NEW YORK -- Despite the burst of success he had in the 2013 postseason, right-hander Michael Wacha entered this season still needing to prove that he has the consistency and longevity necessary to take the next step in his Major League career.
With seven strong innings in Tuesday's 10-2 win over the Mets, Wacha improved to 6-0 on the season, joining Bartolo Colon and Felix Hernandez as the Majors' only six-game winners. Moreover, in his two no-decisions, Wacha combined to allow just one run, which is why the Cardinals have yet to lose when he's been on the mound.
"Just to be able to go out there and give our team a chance to win the ballgame is the main priority," said Wacha, who gave up a two-run homer to Daniel Murphy on Tuesday but little else. "I felt really good out there. I was just trying to go out there and throw a lot of strikes, quality strikes."
The six wins is already a career best for Wacha, who tallied four regular-season victories in his rookie season and five in 2014 before landing on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. In seven of his eight starts, he has allowed two runs or fewer. He's yet to give up more than six hits in an outing, and he ranks seventh in the National League with a 2.13 ERA.
"I think he's a better pitcher," manager Mike Matheny said after the win. "I think he was a guy like a lot of the young pitchers we bring up who was a two-pitch pitcher with a real good fastball and a changeup. The curveball is a legitimate pitch now, and so is the cutter. He's improved. I think he's just getting a better idea of how to use his stuff each night, and he's adjusting real well. [Catcher] Yadi [Molina] is a great help, too, to figure out what's good that day and ride it out."
Wacha is reaping the benefits of adding a curve and cutter to complement his trusty fastball-changeup mix. Per fangraphs.com, he's throwing about twice as many cutters now than he did last season. His percentage of curveballs is close to equal, though these are more effective and coming in bigger spots.
"Just better command and control," Wacha said of those pitches. "I guess that comes with throwing it, working on it in the bullpens and side sessions, and playing catch. They've been working in the game. Just trying to keep the hitters off balance is the goal."
Wacha is the second Cardinals pitcher in four seasons to open the campaign with wins in each of his first six decisions. Lance Lynn did so in 2012 en route to an 18-win year.
"He's real good," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You don't have the numbers he puts up and do what he's done in a short time without being real good."