In his first opportunity against the team that, quite frankly, embarrassed him in the 2013 Wild Card game, Johnny Cueto seized his chance. He made the Pittsburgh Pirates look like fools on Wednesday. Even though the Reds’ right-hander pitched one heck of a game, the Pirates’ hitters didn’t do a lot to make it hard on Cueto.
The last time the Pirates saw Cueto, he was walking off the field to chants of “Cue-to, Cue-to, Cue-to” from the fans at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. It was described by many as a European soccer-style crowd at a baseball game. He would pitch just 3.1 innings, allowing eight hits, one walk and four earned runs. He would never admit it, but the Pirates’ faithful undoubtedly rattled him.
The game on Wednesday wasn’t at PNC Park. Cueto was comfortable on Wednesday, and he made quick work of the Pirates’ lineup. The Cincinnati Reds‘ ace would pitch a complete-game shutout, allowing just three hits and punching out 12 batters. While Cueto was certainly very good against the Pirates, the opposing hitters helped him out a lot. Of his 12 strikeouts, eight of them were on called strike-threes. The Pirates struck out looking eight times.
That’s simply unacceptable.
It’s hard to take anything away from Cueto. He was dominant. His fastball was amazing, especially against lefties. He was able to start his fastball inside against lefties and get it to finish on the inside corner of the plate for called strike-threes at will.
Combine a great pitcher with a strikeout-prone offense and things like this will happen. The Pirates have dropped below the .500 mark and the Reds remain below .500; both teams will likely finish the season with more wins than losses, but they are struggling mightily to start the season.