Aces square off in first game of Reds/Rays series

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) throws the ball against the New York Mets during the second inning at Citi Field.

Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports

Sooner or later, the Cincinnati Reds figure to win a start by Johnny Cueto the way he is pitching.

Doing so Friday night may not be easy given how Cincinnati hitters have fared against left-handed pitching.

The Reds have a tough assignment as they face David Price for the visiting Tampa Bay Rays in a marquee mound matchup opposite Cueto to open this weekend series.

Cueto (0-1, 1.93 ERA) has struck out 17 and allowed batters to hit .160 over consecutive seven-inning stints to start the season, although Cincinnati (3-6) has lost both of his outings while supporting him with a total of three runs.

"I feel very good. I hope that I can continue to pitch like that," Cueto told the Reds’ official website.


The right-hander is 4-0 with a 3.02 ERA in eight career interleague starts at home.

Whether he gets any support in this one will partly depend on whether the Reds can improve upon a .214 average against left-handers as they get ready to face Price (1-0, 4.05).

Joey Votto went 3 for 21 with no extra-base hits on the Reds’ 2-4 road trip capped by Wednesday’s 4-0 win over St. Louis. He’s 0 for 8 against southpaws, and Cincinnati is 9 for 42 with one extra-base hit.

Runs were at a premium the only previous time these starters met. Each lasted 7 2-3 innings and did not get a decision, with Price recording 12 strikeouts and Cueto six in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 victory June 28, 2011.

That contest is the Rays’ lone victory in nine tries versus the Reds.

It also represents the only time Price has seen many of Cincinnati’s hitters, and he’s looking forward to the challenge.

"Votto, Bruce, Brandon Phillips," Price told the Rays’ official website. "I don’t know how people overlook Brandon Phillips. He’s a good hitter, he drives in a ton of runs, he’s got power to all fields. Billy Hamilton, he’s breaking through right now. If you walk the guy it’s essentially a triple. So their lineup’s tough."

Hamilton showed his potential Wednesday as he had three hits, stole two bases and scored twice, racing home on a short pop fly on one occasion.

"That’s kind of as-advertised right there," manager Bryan Price said. "We’ve been waiting for that game and I was really glad to see it."

It may be tough for Hamilton to get a jump against David Price. An AL-high 20 runners were caught stealing between 2012-13 with Price on the mound.

The lefty also has the advantage of being provided a scouting report on the Reds by batterymate Ryan Hanigan, who will return to Cincinnati to face the team with which he spent his first seven seasons. Hanigan was acquired in a three-team trade in the offseason.

"Certainly a lot of our success from a pitching perspective came from the job Ryan did with our pitching staff," Bryan Price said. "He was a guy that went from being a second catcher to a guy that became our No. 1 guy."

Tampa Bay (5-5) has totaled six runs and batted .194 while losing three of four, including Wednesday’s 7-3 defeat in Kansas City. The Rays are 4 for 29 with runners in scoring position in that span and hitting .211 in such situations overall.