Cueto, who hadn’t made a start since April 13 due to a strained right lat-muscle, was activated from the 15-day disabled list prior to Monday night’s game at Citi Field.
In the first inning, Cincinnati staked the right-hander to a 3-0 lead behind a 2-run single from Brandon Phillips, but Cueto couldn’t make it stand up.
Cueto labored through much of the outing in which he failed to locate his pitches and continually left his fastball up in the strike zone. After walking two batters, Cueto needed 28 pitches to escape a bases-loaded jam without any harm done in the bottom of the first.
The Mets finally made Cueto pay for his lack of control in the third inning. Marlon Byrd launched a three-run home run on a slider that hung in the middle of the plate to even the score at three. Byrd is now 7 for 13 in his career against Cueto.
Cueto bounced back following the home run, an encouraging sign for the Reds’ ace. He retired the final eight batters he faced, four of which on strikeouts. In five innings pitched, Cueto allowed three earned runs to go with three hits, four walks and eight strikeouts. He threw 91 pitches, but just 52 strikes.
Cueto also managed to notch his second win of the season thanks to a sixth inning solo home run by Jay Bruce. The Reds held on to win, 4-3, to improve to 27-18 while the Mets fell to 17-25.
Following his uneven performance on Monday, Cueto is 2-0 with a 3.22 ERA and 26 strikeouts in four starts.
On Tuesday, Cincinnati sends Mike Leake (3-2) to the mound against New York’s Jonathon Niese (3-4).