CLEVELAND — It might have been a little surprising to see Johnny Cueto head back out to the mound for the ninth inning Tuesday night at Progressive Field. The Reds’ right-hander had thrown 104 pitches and his team was comfortably ahead of the Cleveland Indians, 9-2.
Aces get treated differently. They’ve earned that right.
Cueto finished what he started for the fourth time this season and the 10th time in his career. He might not have been vintage Johnny Cueto at his best but he was good enough to hold the Indians to five hits and end the Reds’ 10-game losing streak in Cleveland. The last time the Reds won on the north side of the state was May 22, 2010, when Cueto went six innings and allowed two runs in a 6-4 victory.
Cueto entered the game already leading the National League in innings pitched. Once he breezed through a quick 1-2-3 eighth inning, there was no doubt he was going back out in the ninth.
"I was being aggressive and I always feel like I want to finish the game and throw the complete game," said Cueto through interpreter Tomas Vera. "Because I didn’t have to hit that could’ve changed the situation. Thank God I was determined to finish the game and I had my teammates to help me."
Cueto is now 13-6 with a 2.04 ERA and has won five straight decisions. It was his fourth start against an American League team this season; he was 1-1 with a no decision in his three previous starts against Tampa Bay, Toronto and the New York Yankees. All of those were decided by one run. Nine of his first 23 starts have ended up as a one-run game.
Tuesday night was a luxury.
"A lot of times over the course of the season these guys pitch great and they’re in that 2-1 or 1-0 game where I’ve had to take them out for a pinch hitter in a game they didn’t deserve to get the early hook," said manager Bryan Price. "I think what you have to do, especially for your studs, is you’ve got to give them that opportunity if they want it to finish a game. They’re not nearly as common as they once were."
Cueto is now 4-0 in six career starts against the Indians. He gave up a run in the first inning but then retired 16 of 18 batters through the sixth inning as the Reds built a 6-1 lead. The Indians got their final run on a walk to Lonnie Chisenhall, a single by David Murphy and a double by Yan Gomes but a bizarre play that included a loose ball getting out of the Cincinnati bullpen and resulted in Murphy getting caught off of third base helped Cueto and the Reds get out of the inning.
He retired the final eight batters he faced, including getting a replay review overturn of what originally was ruled an infield single for Murphy for the final out of the game.
Cueto threw two complete games against Pittsburgh in April and one against San Diego on May 15. It was the 16th time in 24 starts this season that Cueto has gone at least seven innings.
Tuesday was the first road win of the season for the Reds against an AL team in seven tries. It was a big game in many respects.
"He’s one of those guys who early it takes a little time for him to get on his groove but after that when he gets going, he’s unstoppable," said catcher Brayan Pena. "He was asking for that baseball from the get-go. He knew how important it was for us, this game. He really stepped up. That’s been him this entire season."