BOSTON — Red Sox infielder Will Middlebrooks admitted he was rooting for the Cardinals to reach the World Series so he could see his friend and fellow Texarkana, Texas, native, Michael Wacha.
On Thursday, the rest of the Red Sox will find out if they’re glad to see Wacha. He is the St. Louis Game 2 starter in the World Series against Boston and starter John Lackey.
Unlike Middlebrooks, who turned pro out of high school, Wacha pitched for Texas A&M. He was drafted last year by St. Louis – with the pick the Cardinal obtained when the Angels signed Albert Pujols.
Wacha hit the fast track and made his major league debut May 30 – he allowed two hits and one run over seven innings.
“Once we had him in there, we put him in big positions and he made pitches,” Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny said.
Wacha has dominated in the postseason, with a 3-0 mark and an 0.43 ERA.
MIDDLEBROOKS EXPECTED to be a starter this postseason, but Xander Bogaerts has taken the third-base job.
“It’s tough,” Middlebrooks said. “Growing up, this is what you dream of. You want to be playing in the World Series.
“At the same time it’s about the team. Very easy to make it about yourself but I’m not going to go down that road.”
DANIEL NAVA has also seen his playing time decrease as Manager John Farrell has opted for Jonny Gomes in left field, even against right-handed pitchers.
During the year, Nava played against right-handers and Gomes went against lefties.
“To be honest, it hasn’t been hard because that was my role when I first came up,” Nava said of his initial backup status. But he soon became a regular, until the postseason.
“When the playoffs roll around, things change. (Farrell) said he was going with a gut feeling and I said that’s fine.”
But Nava won’t be on the bench for long. Farrell said he expects Nava to get more playing time in St. Louis.
Nava covers more ground in the field and Busch Stadium has a roomier left field. Also, Farrell said lefties have better success against the Cardinals’ Game 3 and 4 starters, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly.
JOHN LACKEY gets his first postseason start since his masterpiece against the Tigers last Monday (62/3 innings, four hits, no runs).
Thursday night will be another important chance in the spotlight.
“It’s a big game, there’s no running from that,” Lackey said. “It’s something you’ve got to embrace. It’s something you’ve got to enjoy. Just really focus on executing pitches.”
FRANKLIN MORALES was kept on Boston’s postseason roster despite some difficult outings in the playoffs. He entered Game 6 of the ALCS in the sixth inning with two runners on. Both scored after Morales issued a four-pitch walk and then allowed a two-run single.
THE RED SOX actually found time to make a minor trade Wednesday, dealing former Sea Dogs outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Alex Castellanos, 27, a Triple-A outfielder with 24 games of major league experience. Hazelbaker, 26, played two seasons in Portland before moving on to Pawtucket, where he batted .257 last season.
FACTS: This is only the third time that teams with identical records have met in the World Series. The other two Series (1949 and 1958) went to a seventh game. … The winner of the first game has won nine of the last 10 World Series. … Carl Yastrzemski threw out the first pitch.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: