ST. LOUIS - Michael Wacha let the adrenaline flow through his body Saturday, pumping his fist as he walked off the mound to the roaring approval of the throng at Busch Stadium.
In his last few starts, including one near no-hitter, he's rarely been pushed to the brink. But when he left the bases loaded in the sixth, which proved to be the turning point in the Cardinals' 1-0 win over the Dodgers, he couldn't contain himself.
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"I was definitely amped up getting out of that jam," said Wacha, who outdueled the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. "I haven't had to pitch out of too many jams like that."
The 22-year-old Cardinals righthander has been the face of the talented twenty-somethings who have established their presence in these playoffs. So it only made sense that he proved to be the difference, tossing 62/3 innings as the Cardinals took a 2-0 series lead.
"I'm just really impressed with his poise, his ability to really dial it up," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said.
The Dodgers have proved to be no match for the Cardinals' young arms, who have yielded two runs in 22 innings in the first two games of this series. The Cardinals' bullpen has tossed 92/3 scoreless innings.
Closer Trevor Rosenthal, another product of the Cardinals' system, tore through the middle of the lineup to nail down the save, striking out Yasiel Puig, Juan Uribe and Andre Ethier.
The Cardinals already have used five rookie pitchers, an LCS record. As a group, they have shown no signs of inexperience. Wacha has led the way, improving to 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA in his two postseason starts.
"It comes down to a young pitcher being put on the big stage in high leverage [situations] and making pitches," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Wacha's last three starts include a near no-hitter in his final regular-season outing. In that stretch, he's allowed one run in 222/3 innings and held opposing batters to 7-for-75. He has struck out 26 and walked five.
The Cardinals needed that type of dominance to combat Kershaw, who was equally impressive.
"We were able to scratch across a run against a tough pitcher in Kershaw," Wacha said. "It ended up being enough for us."