Reds lose Cueto to injury in 1st inning

Eight pitches into Game 1 of the NLDS on Saturday night, the Cincinnati Reds suddenly found themselves without their ace pitcher Johnny Cueto, who was forced to leave because of back spasms.

The Reds recovered for a 5-2 win over the Giants behind five relievers, but Cueto’s health remained a big question after the game.

Cueto struck out Giants leadoff batter Angel Pagan, then had Marco Scutaro 0-and-1 before throwing a changeup for a strike. But he appeared to grimace as he released the ball and waved toward the Reds dugout to indicate he was hurt.

Manager Dusty Baker came out to check on Cueto, a 19-game winner, but it was clear the right-hander would be unable to continue. The Reds later called the injury back spasms and said he’s day to day.

Cueto may have been hurt on the first pitch of the game, as Pagan inexplicably called time and stepped out of the batter’s box just as Cueto was delivering a pitch. Cueto never let go of the ball and walked off the mound, somewhat perturbed.

He was replaced by right-hander Sam LeCure, who retired Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval on ground balls to end the first. Mat Latos, who’d been scheduled to pitch Game 3, took over in the third and went four innings before handing the ball to three relievers to close it.

TBS’s Tom Verducci reported that Cueto had complained of back spasms before the game.

Cueto’s sudden exit was the earliest in a postseason game by a starter since 2004 when right-hander John Thomson came out after one-third of an inning in the NLDS against the Houston Astros.