The Cincinnati Reds are currently jostling for position with the Pittsburgh Pirates for second place in the National League Central, making the weekend series between the two teams important in terms of staying close to the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals.
Cincinnati rolled to a 6-0 victory on Friday, bringing the record of both clubs to 34-21 and getting big offensive boosts from Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Derrick Robinson. However, it was the performance of starting pitcher Johnny Cueto in the first game of this series that truly was behind their victory.
In short, Cueto was absolutely dealing.
In his third win of the season, Cueto threw 103 pitches in eight innings while striking out six batters. Over those eight inning, he only allowed two baserunners for Pittsburgh on a base hit from Brandon Inge and a walk of Neil Walker.
This was just Cueto’s third start since returning from an oblique injury that kept him out of the Reds’ rotation for over a month. He looked questionable in his first start as he allowed three runs in five innings. However, things looked much more promising in his second start when he lasted seven innings and gave up just one run on four hits in a no-decision.
Then there was the masterpiece he put together on Friday night.
Cincinnati’s starting pitchers have the second-lowest combined ERA in MLB right now at 3.34 and it has been a large factor in their success early this season. Cueto is unquestionably the ace of that pitching staff, though, and they were without him for a month and had been waiting on him returning to form, which would make their rotation even more potent and lead the team to more success.
If Friday was any indication, Cueto definitely seems to be back on track.