FORT MYERS, Fla. — There are two veterans of the 2013 World Series playing for the Red Sox this season.
One is Xander Bogaerts, who was a rookie third baseman and has gone on to become a cornerstone shortstop for the Sox. The other is righthander Michael Wacha, who was a rookie righthander with the St. Louis Cardinals.
As you might imagine, they have very different recollections of the experience.
Wacha started Game 6 at Fenway Park with the Cardinals facing elimination. St. Louis liked its chances. Wacha had started four games that postseason and allowed three earned runs over 27 innings.
“To this day, it was the most electric atmosphere I’ve ever pitched in,” Wacha said Thursday. “The whole city was rallying around that team. We felt like the whole world was against us.”
That’s not hyperbole. The Red Sox were an underdog bearded bunch who helped rally the entire region after the Boston Marathon bombings.
Wacha quieted the crowd, getting through two innings unscathed. But with two outs and two on in the third, he hit Jonny Gomes with a pitch. Shane Victorino then ripped a fastball off the Green Monster and three runs scored. Fenway shook and the Red Sox went on to a 6-1 victory.
“I thought I was going to win that game. Maybe I ran out of gas,” Wacha said. “Looking back, it was still a great experience. It was something I’ll never forget.”
Wacha has not been back to the World Series since. That helps explain why he agreed to a one-year, $7 million deal with the Sox.
“I never thought I’d wear this uniform back in 2013. But we have a chance to win the whole dang thing here,” Wacha said. “That’s what I’m looking to do. I want to win the World Series.
“We have a good team here. A lot of things were appealing to me. I have a ton of respect for this organization.”
Wacha had a 3.91 earned run average in seven years for the Cardinals, an organization that seems to specialize in developing tall, strong righthanders who always take the ball.
“He was a dude,” Sox manager Alex Cora said.
Wacha is 4-9 with a 5.39 ERA in two seasons since leaving St. Louis, pitching poorly for the Mets in 2020, then having mixed success with the Rays last year.
The Sox signed Wacha based largely on the final seven games of the regular season. He largely abandoned his cutter and allowed 11 earned runs over 34⅓ innings featuring a fastball and a split changeup.
That his fastball ticked up in velocity to 96.5 m.p.h. helped. But it was more Wacha understanding how to pitch with what he had.
“It was definitely a learning experience for sure,” he said. “Some ups and downs — went down to the bullpen and back to the rotation. Learned a lot about myself and how to attack hitters.”
Wacha was in the bullpen for the Division Series and the Red Sox ruined his postseason again. He started the seventh inning of Game 2 with the Rays down, 8-6. He allowed six runs on nine hits over 2⅔ innings in a game the Sox won, 14-6. Rafael Devers had a two-run homer and Kiké Hernández a two-run single.
It was a sour end, but the bargain-hunting Sox looked past that. They plan to build up Wacha to be a starter or a multi-inning reliever. With Chris Sale out indefinitely with a fractured rib, Wacha’s potential value is even higher.
Wacha threw live batting practice on Thursday and is likely to start a game early next week.
“We feel comfortable with Michael,” Cora said.
Wacha said he’s heard a few joking remarks about 2013, which he expected.
“I’m looking forward to being at Fenway with the home team,” he said. “I feel like I can build off what I did at the end with Tampa Bay and help this team. I want them cheering for me this time.”