NL Cy Young Award frontrunner Johnny Cueto has absolutely owned the Pittsburgh Pirates except for the most meaningful time he has pitched against them — the 2013 NL Wildcard when the Cincinnati Reds were gashed by the Pirates with Cueto on the mound.
In that game, Cueto didn’t make it through the fourth inning. He endured the mockery of a Pittsburgh crowd calling his name while he struggled to find his command in what amounted to his fourth start since his return from his third trip to the disabled list in 2013.
But in his first two starts against the Pirates this year, Cueto has reminded the Pirates and their newfound swell of fans that he is Johnny Cueto and the Pittsburgh Pirates are still the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In his two starts this year against the Pirates, Cueto has thrown two complete games and given up just one run. Cueto seems to have taken to heart the rude treatment he endured from Pirates fans last year and will have to continue his regular season domination over the Pirates on Tuesday if the Reds are to remind the Pirates that it is the Reds — not the Pirates — who are the contender for the NL Central title and perhaps a World Series run.
As the mid-season frontrunner for the NL Cy Young Award, Cueto is having a dominant year against all of baseball in 2014, but he has always dominated the Pirates. Overall, he is 15-4 against the Pirates with a 2.15 ERA in 23 career starts against them. Granted, the Pirates are not quite the doormat they have been in the recent past, but Cueto has to continue to illustrate that the Pirates aren’t quite a powerhouse in the making.
The Reds are starting to show some signs of life by winning four of their past five games, but they are still a losing team at two games under .500. The momentum for a team is only as strong as their next day’s starting pitcher, and if the Reds are going to ride any kind of momentum heading into the All-Star break a month from now, it’s once again up to Cueto to carry the day.