Wacha follows opener with big start for Cards

Having pitched in bullpen since Aug. 8, experienced righty could be on short leash

Wacha follows opener with big start for Cards

ST. LOUIS -- When Jaime Garcia lasted one inning and allowed two runs on four hits with two home runs Monday against the Reds, it was clear he had lost his edge and likely his spot in the Cardinals' starting rotation for the second time this season.

His loss of mechanics opened the door for a new starter Saturday. The Cards will send Michael Wacha to the mound in his first start since Aug. 8, after St. Louis' 7-0 win over the Pirates in Friday night's series opener. Trailing the Giants by one game for the second National League Wild Card spot with two games remaining, a loss combined with a Giants victory would eliminate the Cardinals and deny them a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Wacha lasted five innings against the Reds that day and went on the disabled list with right shoulder soreness shortly thereafter. He has made three appearances out of the bullpen since his return, allowing 10 runs on 14 hits in 5 2/3 innings with a 15.88 ERA. Opponents are hitting .519 against him over that span.

Wacha's quality start

Wacha made his last appearance on Sept. 26 against the Reds, so he will be pitching on five days' rest like a normal starter. Though he is slated to throw the first pitch Saturday, manager Mike Matheny made it abundantly clear that he's utilizing an "all hands on deck" approach.

"Realize, too, that anybody else you might think is a good option has a good chance of pitching tomorrow," he said. "It just depends on how we use him. We're just going to go one at a time, and it's just, 'Go out there and give us what you got in this particular inning and go from there.'"

Wacha brings a level of experience in high-leverage starts. He has started six postseason games over the past three years. Five of those came in 2013, when he carried a 2.64 ERA over 30 2/3 innings during the Cardinals' World Series run.

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"Kind of going through where we are, how guys have been throwing, the idea that this is a guy who has been in these kinds of situations before," Matheny said. "We don't take that lightly."

Wacha could have a short-leash, given he hasn't pitched more than five innings since July. Mike Leake might have a chance to pitch as well, since Saturday would be his scheduled day to throw a side session.

"I think it's until he doesn't look right," Matheny said of how long he'll stick with Wacha. "Or the situation doesn't prove he's the best option to go with."

Nick Krueger is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.