ST. LOUIS -- No need to remind Michael Wacha of the time and place he last faced the Giants before taking the mound in the Cardinals' 2-1 win on Monday night in the series opener against the defending World Series champs. He'll relive the moment forever, be it on unwelcome postseason highlight reels or in his own mind.
Many will remember Travis Ishikawa's swing on that Oct. 16 evening in San Francisco, a swing that sealed a National League Championship Series victory and sent the Cardinals home stunned. Wacha will remember himself as being on the worst end of it.
But perspective can be a funny thing, and while stung by the outcome that night, Wacha also used the setback to push to be better. To be healthier. To get back to October again and show himself, next time, at his best.
"Obviously, it was a terrible feeling, and I hope nobody has to experience that," Wacha said after firing seven strong innings in a no-decision on Monday. "I guess it gave me a little motivation in the offseason to never have that feeling. It's nothing against the Giants or anything like that, just for myself and hopefully never having that feeling again."
Though Wacha insisted the buildup to Monday's reunion with the Giants was no different than it would be for any August start, the right-hander did give the Giants a look at how dominant he can be. The righty breezed through five innings, allowing only two singles, before being touched for a sixth-inning run. He pitched through the seventh with ease and likely would have been given the eighth were the Cardinals not so cognizant of watching his workload.
That's because they want him on the mound for them in October again.
"I think it's served him well to be able to use that to stay on the mound as often as he can this season," manager Mike Matheny said of Wacha's sour postseason finish. "He was in that situation in a tougher-than-normal spot in the fact that he wasn't sharp because I hadn't given him opportunities for health reasons, obviously. That particular time, we had to go with our best. And even though our best was him, he just wasn't sharp because he hadn't had the repetitions."
Wacha's appearance that night was on 19 days' rest. He had pitched just 16 2/3 innings since June.
However, he's hit no such roadblocks this year. A little more run support on Monday would have made Wacha the league's first 15-game winner. As it is, he has given up just three runs over his last four starts (27 innings). The Giants just so happened to be the latest team he drew.
"Everyone seems to make it out like I was going out for vengeance or something like, I'm after these guys since they won, but I approached it just like any other game," Wacha said. "I was just trying to get out there and approach it like any other game."