August 28, 2016

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Two years ago, Brandon Finnegan introduced himself to major-league baseball as a reliever during the Kansas City Royals' run to the World Series. On Wednesday, Finnegan will seek to build on his recent success as a starter when his Cincinnati Reds face the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium.

Opposing him will be right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who has yet to win a game since the Minnesota Twins sent him to the Angels at the trading deadline.

Finnegan enters the game following two stellar performances. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 20, the left-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before finishing with eight strikeouts while permitting just two walks and one hit in an 11-1 rout.

Reds manager Bryan Price told MLB.com that Finnegan was "as sharp as I've seen him this year."

Then on Friday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Finnegan amassed a career-high 12 strikeouts in six innings while conceding just two runs, two walks and three hits for his fifth quality start in six appearances. In three of those starts, the left-hander pitched shutout baseball.

Friday night's performance provided a distinct contrast from Finnegan's last start against Arizona on July 24, when he allowed six runs on seven hits in five innings of a 9-8 loss.

"Last time I faced these guys, I didn't have a change-up," he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "They were definitely gearing for a fastball matchup. That's why they were missing the change-up so much."

But since that loss, Finnegan won three of four decisions.

Finnegan made seven relief appearances in the playoffs for Kansas City after being recalled from Double-A Northwest Arkansas in September 2014. He became first player in major-league history to pitch in a World Series and a College World Series in the same year, when he played for TCU. The Reds acquired Finnegan in a four-player trade for right-hander Johnny Cueto five days before last year's trading deadline.

"This kid has got all the guts in the world, and he throws strikes," Art Stewart, the Royals' long-time scouting director, told the New York Times in 2014.

Nolasco, on the other hand, lost his last four starts, five successive decisions overall and eight of his past nine since June 13. The right-hander has not earned a victory since July 9. Three weeks later, the Angels acquired him from the Twins in a four-player trade for left-hander Hector Santiago.

Yet in his past two starts, Nolasco showed signs of ending his funk. On Aug. 20, the right-hander did not issue a walk and retired 12 consecutive New York Yankees between the second and sixth innings of a 5-1 loss.

Then on Friday night, Nolasco pitched five shutout innings before the Detroit Tigers scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to rally for a 4-2 win. J.D. Martinez had a run-scoring double and Justin Upton hit a two-run home run.

"I was able to make pitches and get out of those few innings before," Nolasco told the Orange County Register. "But it the sixth it was two hanging sliders that were the difference in the game. It came down to two pitches, and they didn't miss them."

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