Michael Wacha loses no-hitter with one out to go

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We’re on the verge of history at Busch Stadium.

Making good use of his vicious changeup and high-90s fastball, Cardinals rookie right-hander Michael Wacha has no-hit the visiting Washington Nationals through the top of the seventh inning. The Cardinals will carry a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the frame.

Wacha has yielded just two baserunners — the first on a booted groundball by second baseman Matt Carpenter and the second on a Ryan Zimmerman walk to open the seventh inning. We’ll provide regular updates as the 22-year-old tries to finish this off. He has only thrown 86 pitches to this point and needs just six more outs.

Bud Smith, also a rookie at the time, threw the last Cardinals no-hitter back in 2001.

The Nats were eliminated from the playoffs on Monday but trotted out their standard lineup.

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UPDATE, 10:11 p.m. ET: Wacha surrendered a leadoff walk to Adam LaRoche in the top of the eighth but induced a double play groundball from Wilson Ramos. Anthony Rendon then flew out to left field. Wacha has only three outs left — he’s at 99 pitches — and the Cards lead 2-0 heading to the bottom of the eighth.

UPDATE, 10:24 p.m. ET: Wacha got an easy groundout to short from pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi to open the top of the ninth and then struck out Denard Span for the second out. The third batter of the inning, Ryan Zimmerman, hit a bouncer that went over Wacha’s head. Pete Kozma tried to field it quickly and make the throw but wound up pulling first baseman Matt Adams off the bag. It was ruled an infield hit for Zimmerman and Wacha was pulled immediately after. Trevor Rosenthal closed out the 2-0 win.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.