LOS ANGELES -- Michael Wacha wasn't going to surprise the Dodgers with his repertoire, not after having taken the mound against them just five days ago in St. Louis. For Los Angeles, however, familiarity reaped no reward.
Opting not to overhaul his approach despite making back-to-back starts against the National League West leaders, Wacha hushed a Dodgers offense that had just sent him to his first loss by simply being better in the Cardinals' 7-1 victory at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night. He established command of his fastball early, showcased a cutter that manager Mike Matheny later described as "as good as I've seen," and mixed in his changeup and curveball with ease over seven innings.
"I wasn't trying to change too much," said Wacha, whose 2.18 ERA ranks fifth-lowest in the National League. "[It was] the same mentality going in there of attacking the hitters and throwing a lot of quality strikes."
What Wacha has done lately is also throw a lot of quality starts. This was his eighth in 11 games this year, as well as the seventh outing in which he exited having allowed one or fewer runs. It took the Dodgers three consecutive singles and a sacrifice fly to finally score against Wacha in the sixth.
An inning earlier, Wacha maneuvered out of trouble by freezing Joc Pederson, the on-fire rookie who entered the night flaunting a five-game home run streak, on a backdoor cutter after pounding pitches away.
"You could tell that he had a good game plan," Matheny said. "I think he just had the whole package, and when you can do that and have four pitches you can throw in different spots on the plate, it's really hard to pattern somebody."
The win improved Wacha to 6-0 away from Busch Stadium, making him the first Cardinals starter since 2005 (Chris Carpenter, Matt Morris) to open a season with wins in his first six road decisions. Wacha's road tests haven't been light either. He's beaten three division leaders (Kansas City, Washington, Los Angeles) and two second-place clubs (New York, Pittsburgh) on their home field.
And the secret behind the road success?
"I really like the gray jerseys," Wacha deadpanned, before adding, "A mound is a mound to me."
Personal numbers aside, Wacha's performance is also the latest in a string of quality outings from the Cardinals' starters. For the first time since May 15-20, 2014, the club completed a turn through the rotation in which each of its starters finished at least seven innings.
The Cardinals have had a dozen starts that deep over their last 18 games. During that stretch, the starters have had 10 games in which they allowed one or fewer runs. Their collective ERA over that span is 2.10.
"Having Jaime [Garcia] step up and fill in that last spot that had been up in the air, that's big," Matheny said. "Carlos [Martinez is] starting to show some consistency. John Lackey, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha have been just three staples for us. … It's a nice place to be for our starters right now."