Tonight’s game between the Reds and Cardinals at Great American Ball Park features starting pitchers with a lot in common. Both played their college home games in the state of Texas and each began their Major League careers with promising first seasons in 2013.
Tony Cingrani, who played at Rice University before he was drafted by the Reds in the third round of the 2011 draft, takes the mound for the home team. The 24-year-old left hander makes the first start after an excellent debut season that saw him pitch 104 innings, with a rotation-leading 10.3 K/9 and ERA of 2.92. The fielding-independent metrics didn’t like him quite as well (3.78 FIP, 3.49 xFIP) but his rookie season was outstanding even by those measures. Cingrani started twice against the Cardinals in 2013, notching 14 strikeouts (and 8 walks) in 10.1 innings. He gave up 5 runs as the Reds won both of those games.
The Cardinals struggled in 2013 against left-handed pitching (.238/.301/.371) compared to versus right-handed pitchers (.280/.343/.412). The choice by Bryan Price for Cingrani to pitch the second game of the series, instead of Mike Leake, was probably not a random act.
Michael Wacha, who pitched for Texas A&M before his selection by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2012 draft, made his major league debut on May 30, 2013. He threw 64 innings during the regular season, including 9 starts. He had a 9.1 K/9, a 2.78 ERA, 2.92 FIP and 3.36 xFIP. In his two games against the Reds, he pitched ten shutout innings, limiting Dusty Baker’s hitters to 6 hits while striking out ten and walking three. Wacha came within one out of adding a rookie-season no-hitter to his resume. The 22-year old right-hander saved his best performances for the post-season, as he earned the MVP award in the NLCS after pitching 13.2 shutout innings, with 13 strikeouts and only 2 walks.