Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers were among the All-Star players on the field at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.
None had a bigger impact on the game than Michael Wacha.
On a day the underachieving Red Sox needed somebody to get their homestand started on a positive note, Wacha worked into the sixth inning of a 4-0 victory against the Los Angeles Angels.
It could have been into the seventh inning or even the eighth but Wacha was taken out of the game with two outs in the sixth despite having thrown only 60 pitches.
Wacha has thrown as many as 92 pitches in a game this season. But only upper-echelon starters get to see a lineup for a third time through these days. To do otherwise bends the rules of analytics and gets managers in trouble.
So with Trout on second base and two outs in the sixth, lefthander Jake Diekman was the choice to face the lefthanded-hitting Ohtani. Four pitches later, Ohtani lined to left field.
It was the right call. But Wacha deserved a chance to at least finish the inning if not work at the seventh.
Alex Cora was matter of fact about his decision.
“It’s about getting 27 outs and winning the game,” he said. “They understand that. There’s certain days he has to get that out. Today we felt that we had Jake in that spot.”
Wacha is 3-0 with a 1.38 earned run average through five starts. The Sox have won four of those games and he has yet to allow more than two runs in a game.
Wacha was perfect until he walked Andrew Velazquez and Taylor Ward with two outs in the third inning. He then fell behind Trout 2 and 0 before coming back to strike him out swinging at a changeup.
“Things were definitely going my way,” Wacha said.
If Wacha was disappointed when Cora came out to get him, he didn’t show it on the field. He didn’t express it in the clubhouse afterward, either.
Starting pitchers know better than anybody how much the game has changed in the last five years. So even though he had allowed only three hits with two walks and two strikeouts, Wacha didn’t complain.
“I trust Cora with everything,” he said. “Our bullpen was lights out. It was really fun to watch them lock it down.”
What makes it easier for starters to accept how they’re used is understanding that they’re not going to be judged on wins and losses.
“It’s not about outlasting the other starter anymore,” Wacha said. “I try and go as long as I can and compete as long as I can. You can’t get mad about it.
“You have some guys like Max Scherzer who will get to 100 pitches but overall it’s a different game. You have to accept it at some point.”
By any measure, Wacha’s one-year, $7 million deal looks like a bargain. It’s certainly unexpected production for a pitcher on his fourth team in many seasons.
Wacha was 10-16 with a 5.11 ERA in his three seasons before joining the Sox.
Wacha’s 2.88 ERA in his final seven games with the Rays last season led to the Sox pursuing him as a free agent. Wacha’s mid-90s fastball played better with a changeup and a curveball as opposed to changeup and a cutter.
It was a switch he made in late August and has stayed with since.
“He’s been great,” Cora said.
With former Sox manager Bobby Valentine in the press box working for Bally Sports West, the Sox played one of their most complete games of the season.
They had eight hits off fearsome Angels starter Noah Syndergaard including a long home run to center field by Rafael Devers in the fourth inning.
It also was a stellar game defensively for shortstop Xander Bogaerts, whose price goes up every day.