Cardinals' plane grounded, but spirits flying high with Wacha

Cardinals' plane sat on the St. Louis tarmac for a few hours Tuesday. Mechanical problems are delaying the Cardinals' return to Boston for Game 6, scheduled for Wednesday night.

Charlie Riedel/AP
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha warms up before Game 5 of baseball's World Series against the Boston Red Sox Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, in St. Louis.

Michael Wacha had a funny way of preparing for his World Series start that's supposed to save the season for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The 22-year-old October ace spent Tuesday afternoon on the tarmac at the St. Louis airport when the team plane got grounded by mechanical problems.

No telling when the Cardinals would arrive in Boston, trailing the Red Sox 3-2 going into Game 6 on Wednesday night.

"Everyone is just watching movies," Wacha said from the plane, a couple of hours into the delay. "They've got dinner on here for us and stuff. Everyone is just walking around. Nobody is in a bad mood or anything like that. The attitude is pretty good."

His teammates were probably confident, too, considering what the rookie has done this postseason. He's 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in four starts, including a win over John Lackey and the Red Sox in Game 2. Lackey will again oppose the tall right-hander.

"I don't think anything will be much different," Wacha said. "I just try to approach every game the same. I don't think it's going to be too much different. We know the next two games are must-wins. It all starts with me tomorrow night."

Heady stuff for a guy who was pitching at Texas A&M less than a year and a half ago, a guy who began this season in Triple-A.

Then again, look at what he's done.

He came within an out of a no-hitter against Washington in his final start of the regular season, only to give up an infield single. With the Cardinals facing a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-five division series, he took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning to win at Pittsburgh.

He twice outpitched Cy Young Award favorite Clayton Kershaw to win MVP honors in the NL championship series, then beat Boston with his family in the seats at Fenway Park.

Quite a run, by any standards.

"I think it's been one of those that's been fun for us to watch," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said from the idle plane. "Taking everything into consideration, how this kid was in school, in college 18 months or so ago, and watch the maturity, and watch the progress, too."

"Not just Michael, but a group of other young players that have been able to do something very similar. But Michael's done a nice job. We just want him to really not focus on the big picture of what exactly is going on. What we want him to do is go out, make one pitch at a time. There's time for summations later."

Lackey said he could appreciate what Wacha is going through. The Red Sox righty was a rookie with the Angels in 2002 when he started Game 7 of the World Series and beat the San Francisco Giants.

"Probably similar to the way I was feeling. I think I was 23 or whatever that year," Lackey said. "I don't know what kind of guy he is. But personally, I was more excited about it than anything else as far as nerves."

The Red Sox are trying to clinch a World Series title on their own field for the first time since 1918. Anticipation is high in Boston, and prices on the secondary market for even a standing-room ticket were approaching $1,000.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.