Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The young and the old

Yadier Molina was happy Monday with the work of
rookie starter Michael Wacha.
The NL Division Series on Monday offered a contrast too obvious to ignore: Two teams, Atlanta and St. Louis, in elimination games. One's starting pitcher was about as inexperienced as they come; the other's was a crafty veteran who offered almost nothing but his veteraniness.

St. Louis won its game. Atlanta lost its. But both pitchers did quite well, thank you, establishing yet again that there is no pat answer to this game.

Michael Wacha is indeed an impressive young pitcher. He's 22, a rookie out of Texas A&M, the 19th overall pick in the 2012 draft, and his major league resume entering the series boasted less than 65 innings in just 15 games and nine starts. On Monday, he carried a non-hitter into the eighth inning (when Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez hit a long homer) and came away credited with the 2-1 win that forced a decisive Game Five back in St. Louis. He threw almost nothing but fastballs and changeups, and why bother with a third pitch when two are that effective?

That game will feature the Cardinals' best in Adam Wainwright — and Pittsburgh's own rookie sensation, Garrett Cole, who is being moved ahead of veteran A.J. Burnett in a youth-over-veteran move.

Freddy Garcia's been there and done that in the postseason,
and even without the fastball he had in his youth
he still got the job done on Monday.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, with the Dodgers bringing Cy Young favorite Clayton Kershaw (league leader in ERA and strikeouts) back on short rest to try to close out Atlanta, the Braves countered with Freddy Garcia — at age 37 a veteran of 15 major league seasons with seven teams. Monday's outing was Garcia's 11th career start in playoffs and World Series (6-3, 3.25 in postseason play).

"I don't panic," Garcia was quoted as saying on Sunday (which, as it happened, was his birthday) after the Braves were pushed to the brink. "I just make pitch." Which pretty much sums up the appeal of age and experience in a crucial situation.

Garcia made his pitches on Monday: Six innings of two run ball. He navigated his way around eight Dodgers hits, struck out six and left with the lead.

Garcia was hardly as overwhelming as Wacha, but he gave the Braves all they could ask for, and more than should have been expected from a guy who brought a 5.77 ERA over from the American League in midseason.

Nice work by both of them.

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