The confidence the Cardinals had in the 22-year-old supernova they were sending to the mound for Game 6 was infinite.
That they were dangling off the World Series cliff didn’t matter.
Michael Wacha had stared down elimination just weeks ago and laughed.
That he was going to have to pull the Cardinals back from the ledge at Fenway Park, of all places, was also irrelevant.
He had gone into the cathedral of baseball and won just a week ago.
That he was coming off a 114-pitch start in his Game 2 win didn’t matter either.
Least of all to Wacha.
“I had an extra days’ rest coming into this game,” he said. “I was on six days’ rest. Arm felt great, body felt great.”
He knew just how much the Cardinals were leaning on him, which is what made Wednesday’s 6-1 loss that gave the Red Sox the World Series that much more difficult to swallow.
By the end of his night, Wacha would surrender six runs — three more than he had given up in his four previous postseason starts combined.
Things started to fray in the third inning when he hit Jonny Gomes to load the bases with two out, then gave up a double off the Green Monster to Shane Victorino that cleared them.
In a series in which runs were scarce, he knew just how costly it was.
Catcher Yadier Molina tried calming him down but Wacha was too upset to hear anything.
“I was so [ticked] off at that point, I can’t even really remember,” Wacha said.
After becoming the Cardinals’ unlikely workhorse, he reached a point where the load finally became too heavy.
“It’s very disappointing,” Wacha said. “Everyone on this club wants that ring and I didn’t want it for myself, I wanted to win it for these guys in this clubhouse who’ve been working all year, working their tail off all year. Whenever I have a poor outing like that, it hurts me even worse.”
Adrenaline was coursing through him all night. His fastball fluctuated — from 92 miles per hour to 97. But command was his downfall. Of the 76 pitches he threw, only 44 were strikes.
“It doesn’t matter how hard you’re throwing if you can’t locate,” he said.
Knowing what he had done all postseason, no one could point a finger at Wacha.
“He did so good for us and the reason why we’re here is because of him,” outfielder Carlos Beltran said. “So one bad inning, any pitcher has one bad outing. You feel bad for the guy because he’s a young guy and he wanted to go out there and give us a chance to win. At the same time, we couldn’t pick him up also offensively and go out there and score runs for him. We didn’t do that.”
In the Cardinals’ last at-bat, second baseman Matt Carpenter did every thing he could to keep his team alive.
He fought Red Sox closer Koji Uehara for seven pitches, fouled off two of them, including Uehara’s splitter.
In the end, he went down swinging.
The Cardinals had every reason to believe they could come back. They had been down, 3-2, in a World Series six times before Wednesday night. They had forced a Game 7 five times and won all five.
This time, there was nothing left.
“We had all the confidence in the world going into this that we were going to be able to pull it off and even tonight, down big early, nobody quit,” Carpenter said. “Nobody thought it was over until that last, final out was made and that’s been the way we’ve always gone about it. We never think we’re out of it until that final out. Unfortunately we don’t have another game to play and that’s the way it ends.”
Just as he had done with the wins, Wacha carried the weight of the loss on his shoulders.
“I felt like I just let the team down,” Wacha said. “It’s not a very good feeling, that’s for sure.
“I think it’s a little too soon to reflect on. It’s still hurting right now. It’s not a good feeling. Maybe in a couple weeks. Maybe in a week or so, I’ll be able to look back. Getting to the World Series, it’s an incredible accomplishment by this club. But it still hurts.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.