Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto, right, hugs manager Bryan Price after throwing a three-hit, 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Johnny Cueto is off to a fantastic start this season and he’s been nearly unhittable lately.
A home meeting with the Milwaukee Brewers may keep it that way.
Cueto looks to continue a very impressive run Saturday night when the Reds and Brewers meet at Great American Ball Park.
Cueto (2-2, 1.15 ERA) owns the lowest ERA and opponents’ batting average (.136) in the majors, and has allowed three runs and 14 hits over 33 innings in his last four starts. He surrendered one total run in consecutive complete-game victories before tossing eight scoreless innings at Atlanta on Sunday but left without a decision in a 1-0 loss.
"It was a great month," Cueto told the team’s official website through a translator. "All I have to do, I hope, is to stay healthy and continue working."
The right-hander struck out 11 against the Braves, giving him 50 strikeouts in 47 innings this season.
Cueto is 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA in eight career home starts against Milwaukee (21-9), while his last seven have ended in wins for the Reds (13-16). He has a 1.80 ERA while winning three straight home starts against the Brewers.
This time, he may not have to deal with slugger Ryan Braun, who has missed six games with a sore muscle in his right side and could be headed for the disabled list.
Cueto is also trying to help Cincinnati to just its third win in eight games after the offense was limited to three hits in Friday’s 2-0 loss. That followed an 8-3 series-opening win during which the Reds collected 12 hits with three homers.
Offense may be at a premium again since the major league-best Brewers are slated to turn to Yovani Gallardo (2-0, 1.91), who is 0-0 with a 2.88 ERA over his last four starts after winning his first two by tossing 12 2-3 scoreless innings.
The right-hander wasn’t at his best Monday, giving up season highs of three runs and two homers in six innings of a 5-3 win in 12 at St. Louis.
He’s 2-0 with a 2.59 ERA in his last four starts against the Reds, with Milwaukee winning each. However, he’s surrendered eight runs and 13 hits over 12 innings in his last two meetings.
Gallardo has found some success against Joey Votto, who is 4 for 21 with a homer and eight walks against home over the past three years.
Votto is batting .395 at home, doubling in each of the past three games. He’s walked three times in this series, raising his total to 27 to rank among baseball’s leaders.
Milwaukee could use some production from Aramis Ramirez, who is 0 for 28 over his past nine games and 0 for 7 in this series after returning to the lineup following an elbow injury.
The third baseman is hitting .333 in 39 career at-bats versus Cueto, connecting for four home runs and as many doubles.