The St. Louis Cardinals stymied the Cincinnati Reds on opening day with dominant pitching.
The Reds could be in for more struggles at the plate Wednesday night if Michael Wacha can harness the promise he showed in an impressive rookie season.
The defending National League champion Cardinals, favored by many to win their third World Series in nine seasons, won 1-0 in Cincinnati on Monday. Cy Young Award runner-up Adam Wainwright gave up three hits and struck out nine over seven innings, then four relievers combined for two innings of no-hit ball as the Reds were shut out in their opener for the first time in 61 years.
Offense was also tough to come by for St. Louis, which totaled five hits and scored its only run on Yadier Molina’s seventh-inning homer off Reds starter Johnny Cueto. Molina and Matt Adams each had two hits for the Cardinals, who were 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position while the Reds went 0 for 7.
Todd Frazier provided two of Cincinnati’s three hits while Joey Votto went 0 for 4, falling to 3 for his last 29 versus St. Louis. Billy Hamilton, replacing Shin-Soo Choo as the leadoff hitter, struck out in all four of his at-bats.
The Reds put runners on the corners with no outs in the eighth, but they twice grounded into a fielder’s choice and Frazier struck out to end the inning.
"We weren’t able to get a hit there," first-year manager Bryan Price said. "It was disappointing, but there will be more disappointments along the way."
Wacha (4-1, 2.78 ERA) threw a combined 10 shutout innings in two outings versus Cincinnati as a rookie last year. He dazzled in St. Louis’ postseason run, winning his first four starts while allowing three runs in 27 innings before giving up six over 3 2-3 innings in a World Series Game 6 loss to Boston.
The right-hander has focused on diversifying his repertoire, adding a cutter and further developing a previously seldom-used curveball, according to the team’s website. Wacha was 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA in five spring starts.
"When you come up, you’re just doing everything you can to survive, so he was a two-pitch pitcher, for the most part," manager Mike Matheny said. "Michael was a guy, I believe, who saw what he had to do to stay on top … He’s definitely taken steps forward with his game and using his other pitches much better."
Matheny would like to see a better defensive performance from his club after St. Louis committed three errors Monday, including two in the eighth inning to spark Cincinnati’s best offensive threat. The Cardinals had just one three-error game last season and their .988 fielding percentage was tied with Arizona and Cincinnati for the NL’s best.
"When you see three errors pop up there, I just don’t think we’re going to be the kind of team that gives a lot of extra outs," Matheny told the team’s website. "We’re going to take them away. These guys have worked hard to improve all season, and I think that’s what we’re going to see."
Cincinnati will also start a pitcher coming off a strong rookie season with Tony Cingrani (7-4, 2.92) getting the nod. The left-hander won both of his starts versus St. Louis in 2013, allowing five runs in 10 1-3 innings.
He was sharp against Arizona in his final spring start Thursday, giving up one run and five hits in seven innings.
The Cardinals finished 27th last year with a .238 batting average against southpaws.