CINCINNATI — A pitcher shouldn’t have to be perfect or have to throw a shutout to have a shot at a win, but that has too often been the case with the Reds this season.
Johnny Cueto gave up two home runs Tuesday night and that was his undoing. Those two homers accounted for all three runs the suddenly surging Chicago Cubs would need to beat the Reds 3-0 at Great American Ball Park Tuesday night. Former Reds left-hander Travis Wood won his first game since June 15 by allowing the Reds two hits and a walk over six innings and then turning things over to the bullpen.
The Reds threatened in the eighth inning, getting two runners on with two outs, but that was as close as they got to scoring. It was the 12th time they’ve been shut out this season, including eight times at home in a supposed hitting paradise. It was the 64th time in 132 games they’ve failed to score more than three runs in a game. It’s happened 13 times when Cueto has started.
Part of that is the fact that Cueto will often times get matched up with the opposing team’s No. 1 or No. 2 starter. That’s not the case with Wood, who entered the game with a 4.91 ERA and who had gone more than six innings just once in his previous 12 starts.
Wood was sharp on this night. The Reds’ bats were not. They made Wood throw 96 pitches in six innings by fouling off a lot of his efforts but rarely was anything hit hard. The Reds had just one groundball out against Wood and 12 generally routine fly balls or soft liners.
"You have to tip your hat to the guy also. He was keeping the ball down, he even got a base hit. He was mixing it in and out, using that cut fastball but mainly he was throwing strikes," said catcher Brayan Pena. "We had pretty good at-bats against him because when he came out of the game he had 90-plus pitches. It was a battle, but at the end of the day we want results. All of us. We respect battle and all of that but right now we just need to win."
The Reds (63-69) are now just 3Â½ games ahead of the Cubs for the basement of the National League Central division.
Cueto isn’t one to show a lot of emotion on the mound or during post-game interviews, but he was visibly upset after giving up a two-out home run to Anthony Rizzo in the first inning. Rain began falling shortly after the first pitch and steadily grew harder by the time Rizzo came to the plate. Rizzo’s homer was followed by a bloop single to center field by Starlin Castro. That’s when crew chief Bill Miller called for the tarp, starting the clock on what ended up being a 50-minute rain delay.
When the teams returned, Cueto got Luis Valbuena on a fly ball to Ryan Ludwick to end the first. He then retired 10 more in a row and 13 of 14 batters before giving up another hit.
"I was pretty upset because it was raining and the baseball was very slippery," said Cueto. "It’s difficult because if they knew it was going to rain, why couldn’t they stop the game and wait until it was much better weather?"
There was no indication given that the rain storm was going to pop up as quickly as it did. The Reds and their grounds crew are pretty well-versed on the delay thing this season; this was the 15th rain delay at GABP this season. The delays have totaled 18 hours and 11 minutes.
It was still a 1-0 game through the end of the sixth inning but the Cubs got a leadoff single by Matt Szczur and a two-run homer by Arismendy Alcantara for a 3-0 lead. Cueto’s pitch was up and out of the strike zone but Alcantara got ahead of it and sent it flying into the seats. Cueto struck out Wellington Castillo but gave up a single to Wood and walked Chris Coghlan to end his night after 6 1/3 innings and 96 pitches.
On this night, that was all the Cubs needed.
The Reds managed five base runners all game. Sometimes the other pitcher is simply on his game. Opposing pitchers are on their game a lot against the Reds this season.