The Cincinnati Reds put the ball in the hands of their most accomplished starting pitcher last season when the season was on the line and there was no tomorrow, but Johnny Cueto couldn’t come through in the 2013 NL Wild Card to give the Reds postseason life.
Now, the Reds will turn to Cueto once again with their season on the line. It’s not quite an end-of-the-season scenario should Cueto fail, but for the sinking Reds, it sure must feel that way.
The Reds have staggered their way through the 2014 season, overcoming injuries to key players and producing just enough for the team to be in a position for a streak of wins that would finally turn around their season. But for every win or two or three, the rain of losses just keeps coming.
For Cueto to stop the bleeding for the Reds, he’ll most likely have to throw a shutout in his upcoming start against the Los Angeles Dodgers,because the Reds’ offense is so awful that scoring more than one run might be asking too much. While the Dodgers aren’t exactly playing like the offensive juggernaut that only a disparity in payroll could create in today’s MLB, the Dodgers are still the highest-priced bunch of ballplayers out there.
Cueto is only a $10 million a year starter this year and next. As such, he is the kind of bargain a small market team like the Reds have to rely upon to build a winning team. Unless he’s traded, Cueto will be the Reds’ ace for the rest of this year and next year. Then he’ll be gone to greener pastures that won’t quite match the seven-year, $215 million deal that Clayton Kershaw fetched but will still be a mega-deal from a mega-market team.
Cueto is, after all, second to Kershaw in all of baseball in ERA among starters who have thrown at least 500 innings since 2011. This year, he is tops among all major league starters in WHIP (0.79) and opponents BA (.160) and third in ERA (1.97). He’s also second in the NL in strikeouts (97) and innings pitched (96).
So while Cueto is still with the Reds, he’ll be the ace they rely upon to save their season once again. If he can’t do it, then nobody can.