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MIA@STL: Wacha fans six in final spring start

CINCINNATI -- With the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day now past, the Cardinals and Reds prepare for the first of 18 more regular-season meetings between two perennial contenders in the National League Central.

That next contest comes Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET at Great American Ball Park. Both teams enjoy an off-day on Tuesday following the Cardinals' 1-0 Opening Day victory.

The NL Central won't be decided in April, though there is certainly much to be gained if either of these teams starts hot. The Cardinals will play another 14 games before facing anyone outside their division. The Reds and Cardinals are scheduled to meet five more times over the next eight days.

If this is the year in which the Reds hope to sneak up as contenders and supplant the Cardinals atop the division, they can help themselves over this next week. The Reds finished 8-11 against St. Louis last season.

"We want to set a tone for the Central," Reds shortstop Zack Cozart said. "We want to play well in this series and show them. There's been a lot of talk about the Cardinals and not a lot of talk about us with all the injuries and stuff and the changes. We think we have just as good of a team as anybody."

As for the Cardinals, they enter the season as the Reds did a year ago -- the popular pick to win the division. No one needs to remind the Cardinals how that turned out for both teams involved in 2013. That's why manager Mike Matheny insists that all the outside chatter has not resonated inside the walls of his clubhouse.

"You just don't have a group that falls into the trap of complacency," Matheny said. "We know [the Reds] are going to be a good team. They always are. You see some similarities [to 2013]. There are a couple of new faces. For the most part, you know they're going to be a good club that is going to play the game hard."

Both offenses will have their challenges on Wednesday. The Reds will be facing Cardinals starter Michael Wacha, who pitched 10 scoreless innings against Cincinnati during his rookie season. He struck out 10 in those two appearances.

The Reds will counter with lefty Tony Cingrani, who defeated the Cardinals both times he faced them in 2013. St. Louis hopes to be more effective against left-handed pitching, in general, after going 19-23 in games started by a southpaw last year.

Cardinals: Defensive do-over

The Cardinals did not have an overabundance of offseason activity, but the moves they did make were largely dictated by a desire to shore up their defense. Peter Bourjos was acquired to provide coverage in center, while Matt Carpenter's move to third base created room for Kolten Wong.

The debut of this defensively altered club did not, however, go as planned.

Though he tracked down a flyball on Monday that most outfielders would not have touched, Bourjos couldn't keep it in his glove and was hit with an error as a result. Wong and Matt Adams each committed errors in the eighth inning.

"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 said afterward. "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."

The Cardinals committed only one three-error game all of last season. That one they lost by two runs. On Monday, they still managed to hold onto a one-run win.

"Thank God for our pitching," Wong said. "They came in and did their job and got me out of that jam. That's something you don't want to get your pitchers into. But, unfortunately, it's going to happen in this game. This game is all about failure. Thankfully we got out of it."

Reds: Hamilton slowed in season debut

Reds rookie leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton did not have the Opening Day he would have envisioned on Monday vs. the Cardinals. Hamilton went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts against ace Adam Wainwright.

"All of his stuff was working," Hamilton said. "Every pitch he threw was for strikes. Props to him. He's a great pitcher. It was just another learning [step] for me. I'll come out [next time] and get better. I will be all right."

Reds manager Bryan Price was asked if Hamilton might have been nervous before his first opener in the Majors. Price promptly rejected that question.

"I see him going up against Adam Wainwright, and [Wainwright] was pretty good," Price said. "It's a pretty good bullpen over there, and they gave him some trouble. Those games happen. I know he really would have liked to have more impact on the game offensively. He'll back in there the day after tomorrow doing his thing."

Hamilton wasn't kicking himself for the rough first regular-season game after a strong Spring Training, during which he cemented his spot as the leadoff hitter and center fielder.

"Everybody has bad days. That's baseball," Hamilton said. "There's always tomorrow. You can always come back and learn something tomorrow and get better the next day. I'm happy to be playing this game."

Worth noting

• Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton remained at extended spring camp in Goodyear, Ariz., and is scheduled to throw one inning on Tuesday. Broxton (right forearm) is expected to join Double-A Pensacola on Thursday and pitch again on Friday.

• Reds lefty reliever Sean Marshall (sore left shoulder) is also in Goodyear and slated to throw one inning at the team complex and pitch one inning on Friday vs. the AZL Rockies.

• Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco (strained left oblique) was scheduled to take batting practice in Goodyear on Monday and join Pensacola on Thursday.

• The Cardinals and Reds will both hold workouts on Tuesday, a scheduled off-day

• Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay will enter Wednesday's game riding a 14-game hitting streak dating back to September 2013.

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