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No walks vs. Astros most important to Wacha

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha spent Friday afternoon watching Adam Wainwright handcuff the Nationals in a dominant eight-inning outing. "A tough act to follow, for sure," was how Wacha later described it.

Well, Wacha gave it a valiant try.

With a seven-inning, eight-strikeout performance on Saturday, Wacha pitched deeper into a game than any Cardinals starter not named Wainwright has this spring. He, too, was efficient (85 pitches, 55 strikes) and did not issue a walk in his second-to-last spring tuneup.

"They all felt good today," Wacha said of his four-pitch mix. His curveball got sharper as the game progressed, and his changeup was especially effective.

Wacha had at least one strikeout in five of his seven innings, and he has a combined 13 strikeouts in his past two starts (10 2/3 innings). He did not walk a batter in either of those outings, both against Houston.

"I like the zero walks part for sure," Wacha said. "That's when I get in trouble more times than not, is whenever I give up free baserunners, and then a couple singles after that, a run scores all because of the walk. If I can keep that number down, I feel a lot better about it."

Beyond Wacha and Wainwright, the Cardinals have done a much better job of minimizing the free passes of late. A combined seven pitchers have not issued a walk in the team's last 20 innings, and after walking 43 batters in the first 10 Grapefruit League games, the Cardinals have walked 26 over the past 11.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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