The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

October 23, 2013

Texarkana friends meet in World Series

(Continued)

And the Wacha family will be rooting for both. Wacha and Middlebrooks played on the same American Legion summer team, coached by the pitcher's father, Tom.

"I don't think anybody really five years ago would have ever expected it, especially two guys from the same team playing against each other in World Series," Tom Wacha said.

In a way, the Cardinals have Albert Pujols to thank for Michael Wacha, slated to start Game 2 on Thursday.

St. Louis received the 19th overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft from the Angels as compensation when Pujols left to sign a $240 million, 10-year contract. The Cardinals used the selection of Wacha, who had gone 27-7 during three seasons at Texas A&M — including an 11-strikeout effort against Holy Cross in February 2012.

"He really didn't start throwing hard until his senior year in high school. He wasn't like a dominant pitcher," Middlebrooks said. "He was really good because he knew how to pitch and used all three pitches. Once he got to Texas A&M he got taller and stronger, worked with a lot of good coaches. You look up now and you see 96."

After rocketing up the minor league system from rookie ball to Triple-A in less than a year, Wacha made his big league debut on May 30 at Kansas City. He didn't get a decision that night in a rain-interrupted game that ended at 3:14 a.m. but got his first big league victory on June 11 against the Mets. He was sent back to the minors later that month, brought back for 2½ weeks in August, then recalled again after rosters expanded in September.

He was 2-1 with a 1.72 ERA in five September starts, finishing with a near-historic performance against Washington. He was one out from throwing a no-hitter in his ninth big league start when Ryan Zimmerman hit a chopper just over the 6-foot-6 right-hander. Shortstop Pete Kozma charged, grabbed the ball with his bare hand and threw just a little wide, pulling Matt Adams off the bag as Zimmerman arrived.

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