Edwin Jackson started heading in the right direction for the Chicago Cubs a week and a half ago when he beat Tony Cingrani and the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.
Given the way Cingrani has performed at home, the Reds have hope that things will be different Wednesday night when they look to take both games of a rain-shortened series at Great American Ball Park.
Jackson (1-2, 5.02 ERA) and Cingrani (2-2, 2.86) were the starters April 19 when Jackson bounced back from a pair of rough outings to limit Cincinnati (12-14) to two runs over 5 2-3 innings in an 8-4 victory.
The right-hander then overcame a slow start Thursday to record his first quality start in a 5-2 loss to visiting Arizona. He surrendered three runs in the first two innings before allowing none over the next five.
"Early in the game, it felt like I was rushing a little bit," said Jackson, who retired 17 of the final 18 batters. "It was one of those days when you feel like you don’t have your best stuff, so you try to make it happen. You just have to take a step back and slow the game down."
Now Jackson will try again to slow down Cincinnati. He’s 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA in six career starts dating to his time with St. Louis, and held the Reds to a run over seven innings Sept. 10 as the Cubs (8-17) cruised to a 9-1 win in his most recent start in Cincinnati.
Cingrani certainly didn’t have his best stuff in the meeting earlier this month, allowing three runs and walking four over five innings. But he regrouped to hold Pittsburgh to one run while striking out seven over six innings in Thursday’s 2-1 road win.
"I threw the ball a little better than I did the last time," Cingrani told the team’s official website. "My mechanics are getting a little bit more repeatable, but I still have a little ways to go."
The left-hander looks to continue making those strides at home, where he hasn’t given more than three runs in 11 career starts. He’s allowed just two runs in 13 1-3 innings in his two outings there this season.
Although Cingrani is 4-3 with a 2.75 ERA all-time at home, his shortest home start came when he opposed Jackson on Sept. 10. He gave up a two-run homer to Welington Castillo and only recorded five outs before leaving with back spasms.
That’s Castillo’s lone hit in 10 at-bats versus Cingrani.
Starlin Castro (1 for 12), Anthony Rizzo (2 for 10) and Darwin Barney (0 for 9) have also struggled when facing Cingrani.
Although Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce is just 3 for 16 and Ryan Ludwick has gone 3 for 14 with seven strikeouts against Jackson, Joey Votto is 7 for 18 with two home runs.
Bruce, Ludwick, Votto and Brandon Phillips went a combined 1 for 13 Tuesday, but Billy Hamilton hit his first career homer and matched a career high with three hits as the Reds snapped a three-game losing streak with a series-opening 3-2 victory.
Castro provided Chicago’s lone highlight with a two-run single in the third inning as the Cubs lost for the fifth time in six games. They’ve also dropped 26 of the last 33 meetings with the Reds.