The Cincinnati Reds are heading to the playoffs for the first
time in 15 years after clinching the NL Central title on a dramatic
game-ending home run.
For the Reds to have a decent chance of advancing past the
division series, however, they’re going to need Johnny Cueto to
pitch much better than his last outing.
Cueto, a possible starter for a playoff opener, looks to bounce
back from his worst performance of the year when he takes the ball
against the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
Cincinnati (88-69) won its first division title since 1995 with
a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Astros on Tuesday. With the game
tied at 2, Jay Bruce led off the ninth with a homer, spurring a
raucous celebration at home plate.
“When he hit that one up there, there was a big sigh of relief
and the party was on,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I’m as happy as a
man can be. This is sweet. This is a special group, special guys
and a special feeling.”
With the Reds celebrating the division championship long after
Bruce’s clutch homer, it’s uncertain what kind of lineup Baker will
use for this game.
Baker also has time to set his starting rotation for the
playoffs with Cueto (12-6, 3.73 ERA) and Bronson Arroyo (16-10,
3.97) the likely candidates to take the mound in the first
Cueto’s chances of pitching Game 1 seemed to take a bit of a
hit, however, after he was pounded for eight runs and eight hits in
a season-low 1 1-3 innings in last Wednesday’s 13-1 loss to
Milwaukee. The right-hander had a 2.18 ERA in his previous five
“I wasn’t locating the pitches how I wanted,” Cueto told the
Reds’ official website. “I was opening up too much and I was
landing standing up. So my pitches weren’t locating. After I
finished and watched the video, that’s what I figured out.”
Before getting hit hard by the Brewers, Cueto didn’t receive a
decision after allowing three runs in six innings of a 5-3 win at
Houston on Sept. 17. He is 1-1 with a 2.18 ERA in five starts
against the Astros since the start of last season.
Cueto has done a good job of shutting down slugger Carlos Lee,
who is 1 for 14 against him since 2009.
The Astros (74-83) lost their third straight Tuesday and have
dropped six of seven after winning six of eight. They haven’t lost
four in a row since Aug. 4-8.
“We wanted to win all three games and make them clinch against
somebody else,” said reliever Tim Byrdak, who served up Bruce’s
Nelson Figueroa (5-4, 3.81), who struggled against Cincinnati
less than two weeks ago, is scheduled to pitch for the Astros.
After going 2-1 with a 3.31 ERA in his first six starts since
being moved to the rotation, Figueroa has yielded five runs in each
of his last two – both losses.
The right-hander gave up seven hits in 4 1-3 innings in an 11-1
defeat to the Reds on Sept. 18 before allowing six hits – two
homers – in six innings of a 7-2 loss at Washington on