Pitching in his first full professional season, Tony Cingrani believes he will be in Bakersfield for a while. That's bad news for the rest of the California League.
The Reds' No. 12 prospect continued his run as the league's dominant hurler Friday, striking out 12 while giving up one run on five hits over six innings. That wasn't quite enough for the Class A Advanced Blaze, who dropped a 6-3 decision to the Lake Elsinore Storm.
The 12 punchouts were a season high for Cingrani, who fanned 13 for short-season Billings last Aug. 27.
"Tonight, after throwing something in the dirt, we'd usually go outside with a fastball," Cingrani said. "I threw a couple two-strike breaking balls in the dirt for strikeouts. The breaking ball and fastball were my two [pitches] tonight."
Cingrani set the tone early, generating his first six outs via strikeouts. He ended his night nearly the same way, fanning five batters in the fifth and sixth innings.
"The first two innings, there's a big white wall in center field and maybe I was throwing out of it," Cingrani said. "It didn't seem like they were seeing me too well. After that, I threw a lot of sliders and changeups for strikes. Pretty much everything was working."
In between his strong start and finish, the 22-year-old left-hander encountered his lone trouble spot in the fourth. He surrendered a leadoff homer to Tommy Medica and a double to Padres' No. 2 prospect Rymer Liriano two batters later. But he worked out of further trouble by fanning Everett Williams and retiring Eddy Rodriguez on a ground ball.
The five hits were the second-highest total Cingrani's given up this year. And while he pitches in the hitter-friendly Cal League, he has not allowed more than one earned run in any of his eight starts. He leads the circuit with a 0.78 ERA and 65 strikeouts over 46 innings.
"Moving the fastball around, not leaving it over the middle and not leaving it up," Cingrani said of keys to success. "If you go low in the zone and go inside-outside, you're keeping them guessing. Usually, you're going to have a groundout or a popup, not very solid contact."
Despite his success, Cingrani is not concerned about when he will move on to the next level. For now, he's content with the way things are going in Bakersfield.
"They have said that I was staying until the All-Star break, so I'm just here to do what I need to do," he said. "I'm just going to keep going out every fifth day and try to do what I did today. I'm not too worried about that, it is my first year here. I'm more worried about getting those innings in and staying healthy. The rest of it is out of my control."
Medica finished with two homers, a double and four RBIs, while Chris Bisson also plated a pair of runs for the Storm.
Donn Roach (7-0) earned his league-leading seventh win by allowing two unearned runs on two hits over seven innings. He struck out four and walked two as he lowered his ERA to 1.69.