Cingrani takes the mound opposite Villanueva as the surging Reds try to continue their dominance of the slumping Cubs in the second of three Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.
After placing Cueto on the disabled list April 15 due to a strained right lat, Cincinnati called up Cingrani (1-0, 1.80 ERA) from Triple-A Louisville to take his place in the rotation. The promising 23-year-old didn’t disappoint in Thursday’s 11-1 win over Miami, scattering five hits and striking out eight over five innings of one-run ball.
“It seems like they never get a good swing on it,” shortstop Zack Cozart told MLB’s official website. “They know it’s coming and they can’t really do anything with it. When you have a good fastball, you’re going to be successful. He pitched well.”
Despite Cozart’s high praise, Cingrani knows he needs to come out more efficient going forward. He issued three walks and needed 102 pitches Thursday.
“It could have been a little better overall, but I’m happy with it,” said Cingrani, who became the first Reds left-hander to win his first big league start since Tom Browning in 1984. “I wasn’t throwing too many strikes. I was getting 3-2 counts on everybody. First-pitch strikes and getting ahead of them is what I have to do the next time.”
Signed to a two-year deal this offseason, Villanueva (1-0, 1.29) has been a pleasant surprise for Chicago (5-13) as he helps replace the injured Matt Garza The veteran right-hander, who owns a career 4.17 ERA, has allowed three runs and limited opponents to a .186 average over his first three starts spanning 21 innings.
Villanueva was outstanding again Thursday against Texas, giving up two runs over seven frames to earn his first victory.
“Personal stats … it’ll happen. What do I gain from being upset if I don’t get a win?” he said. “Nobody benefits from that. This isn’t a game to be selfish about.”
Villanueva, who is 1-2 with a 2.59 ERA over five career starts against the Reds (12-8), would appear to have a difficult matchup ahead of him Tuesday.
Having won seven of eight while going 27 for 72 (.375) with runners in scoring position, Cincinnati came up clutch again in Monday’s 5-4, 13-inning victory.
“I’m worn out from thinking - double-switching, trying to keep the pitchers in as long as we could,” manager Dusty Baker said. “That was a good one to win - a great one. That’s one of the best comebacks I’ve seen.”
The Reds have taken 34 of 47 meetings against the Cubs, including five straight and 10 of the last 11. Sitting at the bottom of the NL Central, Chicago has dropped four straight overall and seven of its last eight.
“It’s hard to be down,” Monday’s starter Travis Wood said. “It’s not like we’re getting blown out every game. We’re right there. We’ve just got to figure out a way to pull them out.”
Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano both went 0 for 6 on Monday. Starlin Castro though, produced an RBI single to extend the majors’ longest active hitting streak to 14 games - tied for the longest in his career.