Wacha strong, but Cards struggle offensively in 1-0 loss to Reds

In his young career, starter Michael Wacha has now worked 16 2/3 innings against the Reds without allowing a run.

In his first start of 2014, Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha pitched like it was 2013.

Unfortunately for him, the Cardinals hit on Wednesday night in Cincinnati like they did against left-handers in 2013. That is, they didn’t hit. St. Louis was held to three singles by lefties Tony Cingrani and Manny Para and right-hander J.J. Hoover in a 1-0 loss to the Reds. The Cardinals’ other 22-year-old hotshot right-hander, Carlos Martinez, took the loss when he allowed three singles and a walk in the ninth.

Wacha did his part, holding the Reds to three hits in 6 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out seven, walked one and allowed more than one baserunner in an inning only once. In his young career, Wacha has now worked 16 2/3 innings against the Reds without allowing a run.


Lefty slugger Matt Adams saw his first two sliders of the season from a left-hander and he was able to lay off one, and it led to a walk. But the one he didn’t lay off cost the Cardinals.

With the game still scoreless in the seventh with two out, the Cardinals had two on in an inning for the first time against Tony Cingrani when Adams stepped in. Cingrani threw him five straight fastballs before, with the count 2-2, unleashing the type of pitch that baffles so many lefty sluggers — the slider that breaks low and out of the strike zone.

Adams spent a good part of his winter watching sliders spin out of his pitching machine back home in Pennsylvania, just trying to improve his ability to recognize the ones that might break off the plate. On this one, the last pitch of an excellent outing by the 24-year-old Cingrani, Adams did not let it go. He swung — flailed would be more accurate — and whiffed on the pitch by six inches.


Picking up on a trend from last year they’re hoping would not carry over, the Cardinals again weren’t able to do much against a left-handed starter. Cingrani, now 3-0 in his young career against St. Louis, is not just any lefty. He throws a 95-mph fastball, and if he ever develops a plus breaking pitch, watch out. He was tough enough against the Cardinals, giving up just three singles and two walks while striking out nine. He was perfect through three innings and didn’t allow a Cardinal to reach third in his seven innings.

If the Reds’ rotation stays on turn, the Cardinals will see Cingrani in their home opener Monday. In 19 career starts, he has yet to allow more than five hits. The Cardinals will deal with an even tougher left-hander on Saturday in Pittsburgh when Francisco Liriano makes his second start of the season. No left-hander — or right-hander for that matter — was tougher on the Cardinals last season than Liriano. In four starts including the postseason, he held the Cardinals to a .130 batting average and 1.20 ERA in 30 innings while going 3-0.


If the Cardinals and Reds want to play Thursday afternoon, they could be waiting around longer than the two hours and 40 minutes that delayed the start of Wednesday’s game. According to the forecast, chance for rain is between 70 and 80 percent all afternoon in Cincinnati.

A postponement likely would not bother the injury-depleted Reds, who have started the season with eight players on the disabled list. Most of them are expected to be back by the time the teams meet again in Cincinnati, May 23-25. That includes the most important of their disabled, closer Aroldis Chapman. Chapman, who was hit in the face by a line drive in spring training, told Cincinnati reporters on Opening Day that he feels "almost normal." He has not started working out again, but the Reds are hopeful he can return in May. 

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.