When the Cincinnati Reds won the 2010 NL Central and drew the Philadelphia Phillies in the playoffs, it was then-Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez who drew the start in Game 1 of the divisional series, not current Reds ace Johnny Cueto.
The Reds were no-hit by Roy Halladay in that game, and Volquez was thumped for four runs in less than two innings. Volquez lasted one more year with the Reds before he embarked upon the journeyman path that has led him to the Pittsburgh Pirates, for whom he is now pitching like the ace he was when he first arrived in Cincinnati (17-6 in 32 games started in 2008).
Tuesday night, Volquez reminded the Reds why then-general manager Wayne Krivsky traded slugging outfielder Josh Hamilton to the Texas Rangers for Volquez — Volquez has the ability to pitch like an ace. He finished a strong outing against the Reds Tuesday night with just two earned runs given up over seven innings.
As for his counterpart, Cueto displayed for the smattering of the thousands who attended the duel between aces in Pittsburgh why it is Cueto , who has the second lowest ERA among all starting pitchers in baseball (2.54) who have thrown more than 400 innings since 2011.
Oddly, the flip side of that equation is Volquez, who has the second worse ERA (4.94) among starters, with 400-plus innings since 2011. The poor showing by Volquez in recent years belies the success he had enjoyed so far in 2014, but whether or not Volquez can sustain that success remains to be seen.
As for Cueto, his poor performance in recent years is primarily limited to the NL Wild Card game that he lost last year in Pittsburgh after returning from the disabled list for the third time. The chant of “Cueto!” was loud for the Wild Card game, but did not quite carry so loud Tuesday night amongst the meager turnout in Pittsburgh.
Besides, Cueto let his pitching do his talking and shut the collective mouth of any would-be chanters by nearly throwing a second straight shutout of the Pirates, a team he has owned (with one postseason exception) over his career with a 15-4 record and a 2.15 ERA.