ST. LOUIS -- Tuesday wasn't the first time a no-hitter just narrowly slipped through right-hander Michael Wacha's hands.
Last March, Wacha carried a perfect game into the eighth inning for Texas A&M against Pepperdine. He retired his first 21 batters before an error after a dropped third strike allowed the first runner to reach base. Wacha lost his no-hitter on the next at-bat as an infield single bounced off his glove.
The 22-year-old rookie said the didn't get much sleep Tuesday night, still riding the high and fielding texts and phone calls hours after his near no-hitter.
"It was just an incredible night. Just thinking about it, it was just unbelievable," Wacha said. "Just the plays guys were making behind me and you know, the stuff that I had and the way [catcher Yadier Molina] was working back there. It was just unbelievable."
One thing he was trying not to think about, however, was what would have happened had he not instinctively tipped, and slowed, Ryan Zimmerman's sharp ground ball.
"It was perfectly placed," Wacha said. "I guess it was just meant to be."
Wacha may have been the odd man out of the postseason rotation, but on Tuesday, he certainly pitched himself at least into the conversation. Though it was Wacha's last scheduled start, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn't rule out the rookie making another in October.
"We continue to have these young players thrown into these big situations, and they continue to show us that they're for real," Matheny said. "Not that we doubted Michael or any of the others, but you put them in tough situations, and I've seen guys a lot of the time not respond like you saw him respond [Tuesday]. I think it just says a lot about him, and that gives us a reason to be encouraged and excited."
Being just over a year removed from pitching collegiately, Wacha's workload has been closely monitored this season. Matheny said he was comfortable allowing Wacha's pitch count to reach a career-high 112 pitches Tuesday. Wacha has tossed 64 2/3 innings in the big leagues this season and 85 with Triple-A Memphis.
"We were on a balancing act the whole time -- is he going to get enough work and then is it too much?" Matheny said. "It was push and pull all at the same time, which it has been for all of our young guys, but we're happy with where he is right now."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.