#Michael Wacha superb in his Mets debut

#Michael Wacha superb in his Mets debut

July 28, 2020 | 12:00am

As disappointing as Rick Porcello was on Sunday, that’s how impressive Michael Wacha was a day later. The two newcomers couldn’t have authored outings more different.

Twenty-four hours after an ugly loss fueled by Porcello’s dud, Wacha made sure the Mets got back to .500, throwing five strong innings of one-run ball in a 7-4 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Monday night.

“Just excellent,” manager Luis Rojas said. “One mistake against that lineup, what more can you ask? He put us in a good spot today.”

With a fastball that reached 97 mph, a darting changeup and effective cutter, the former Cardinals’ right-hander tamed the potent Red Sox lineup. His lone hiccup was a Mitch Moreland solo home run in the fourth inning on a fastball that got too much of the plate. Otherwise, he provided the Mets with everything they could’ve asked for. Over five innings, he allowed five hits, one run, walked one and struck out four while throwing 77 pitches, 48 for strikes.

Michael Wacha
Michael WachaAP

“I feel like I had pretty good command of the fastball, cutter and changeup,” said Wacha, a former All-Star who has dealt with a myriad of injuries in recent years. “Me and [catcher Wilson] Ramos, we got in a nice little groove there. We were attacking the zone, making pitches.”

The changeup was particularly effective. Wacha got six swings and misses on it.

“It’s always been my bread and butter,” he said. “It’s kind of what made me who I am.”

After an inconsistent season last year with a 4.76 ERA, Wacha retooled his motion, adjusting his mechanics and altering his weight-lifting regimen in an attempt to avoid injury. He saw improved results in his 2020 debut.

“It has really helped me out a lot,” he said. “I feel like my fastball is coming out a lot easier. … It’s definitely helped my off-speed as well.”

He was at his best in the third inning, after allowing the first two Red Sox to reach base, setting up the lethal top of the order with a golden scoring opportunity. But Wacha got Andrew Benintendi to wave at a changeup and induced slugger J.D. Martinez into a 4-4-3 double play to escape trouble. He closed his outing by again retiring Martinez with two aboard in the fifth, this time on a fly ball to right field.

Ironically, Wacha was considered a luxury at one point, an extra starting pitcher after the signing of Porcello in mid-December. He quickly became a necessity due to injuries to Noah Syndergaard (Tommy John surgery) and Marcus Stroman (torn left calf muscle), and a day after Porcello’s debut was a disaster, Wacha delivering a reassuring outing for the Mets’ questionable starting rotation.

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