Cingrani making history on the mound for the Reds

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tony Cingrani (52) pitches during the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park. 

Frank Victores

CINCINNATI — Anthony Cingrani III may be the most unknown and underrated young pitcher in the major leagues, despite a start to his career unmatched in 100 years.

The tall, taciturn left-hander has made 19 major league starts for the Cincinnati Reds and not once has he given up more than five hits.

His latest eye-popper was Wednesday night in Great American Ballpark against the powerful and potent St. Louis Cardinals. After waiting out a rainstorm that delayed the game’s start for two hours and 40 minutes, Cingrani bound and gagged the Cardinals for seven innings –€” no runs, three hits, one walk, nine strikeouts in a game the Reds won, 1-0.

Asked how he prepared during the lengthy delay he smiled and said, "€œTake some Excedrin and you’re good to go." And it was the Cardinals who suffered the headaches.

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Cingrani’s opponent was well-publicized young pitcher Michael Wacha and a pregame show on the MLB Network demonstrated the anonymity of Cingrani.

They were doing a preview on Wednesday morning about Wednesday night’€™s game on the MLB Network and photographs of the starting pitchers — Wacha and Cingrani — were on the bottom left corner of the screen.

Former major league pitcher Dan Plesac began talking about the game and spent about five minutes talking about how good Wacha is, how good his change-up is, how good his fastball is, how good his control is. And he talked about Wacha’s brother, Lucas, a linebacker at the University of Wyoming.

There was not one word spoken about Cingrani. Not a single, solitary syllable.

He did his talking on the mound Wednesday night and spoke at loud decibels. His only problem surfaced in his last inning, the seventh with two on and two outs when it was 0-0. After a walk and a single put two on base, he faced first baseman Matt Adams and slipped two fastballs past him for strikes.

Instead of pumping a two-strike fastball at Adams, as Cingrani throws about 90 percent of the time, he threw a slider and Adams swung through it.

The usually placid Cingrani leaped in the air and pumped his arm. After the game he smiled and said, "I shook off the fastball to throw the slider because I thought I could make it and made a pretty good pitch. Yeah, it was a pretty good pitch. I figured the slider would work and that the one out of seven that I threw well."

Of his celebratory reaction he said, "€œI was a little jacked up, the adrenaline was flowing. You want to beat the Cardinals, nothing else like it."

Cingrani replaced Bronson Arrroyo in the rotation after Arroyo took free agency and Cingrani now dresses in the locker once occupied by Arroyo. He earned it by going 7-4 with a 2.92 earned run average in 18 starts last season.

After his 19th start and 2014 debut, the 6-4, 215-pound left hander has given up five hits five times, but never six hits. In 108 2/3 innings he has given up 64 hits.

"He has had to develop the off-speed pitches to go with his fastballs and the confidence to go with the quality," said manager Bryan Price. "He has done that over spring training –€” made some significant advances. But we all know he loves to challenge hitters with fastballs. He has a good one, a special one with movement, deception and explosiveness. And he is so competitive. We are counting on him to give us a lot of innings this year."

And maybe before his next start MLB Network might say something about him — at least mention his name.