ST. LOUIS -- Though Michael Wacha battled inefficiency and shaky fastball command early in his outing on Sunday, manager Mike Matheny, after the Cardinals' 3-2 loss to the Braves, downplayed the presence of any concerning trends in a month where Wacha has endured his first extended hiccup of the year.
With three runs allowed over six innings, Wacha has now given up 13 runs over his last three starts (17 innings). An escalating pitch count was of concern for Wacha early, as it took him 51 pitches to navigate the first two innings. By the time he did, the Braves had jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
"Early on, I was just having a little trouble finding the strike zone, leaving some balls up in the zone," said Wacha, who walked three of the first 10 batters he faced. "[I] gave up an 0-2 hit [to Cameron Maybin] that drove in a run. I've got to do a better job with those counts and being able to put them away and not give those up."
Matheny insisted that Wacha pitched better than the outcome looked, however. Pete Kozma's two-out error in the first inning led to Wacha needing to throw 11 extra pitches to get through the frame. The Cardinals then believed they had Eury Perez struck out with one out and none on in the second. Instead, Perez drew a full-count walk to set up the two-run inning.
Even the go-ahead home run Wacha served up to rookie Adonis Garcia in the sixth hardly cleared the fence.
"There were a couple things that happened today that would have made that look radically different," Matheny said. "Some of those are outside his control. That's pitching, too. You're going to have plays not happen. You're going to have calls not go your way. You have to figure out a way to get through it. He stayed in there a lot longer than it looked like he was going to at the beginning, and that is a great compliment to him."
The Cardinals remain cognizant of Wacha's workload -- now at 118 1/3 innings -- to see if any signs of fatigue begin to show. That's because Wacha has already thrown more this year than he did in 2014, when a shoulder injury limited him to 109 1/3 innings.
But to this point, there are no active plans to further alter his schedule as a result of that monitoring. The Cardinals did just build in a 12-day respite for Wacha around the All-Star break.
"I know he's frustrated right now because the results were coming a little easier early on," Matheny said. "He's having to work hard now."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.