LOS ANGELES (AP) — Johnny Cueto squeezed the ball too tightly after Tony Gwynn Jr. got the sign for a suicide squeeze bunt.
Luis Cruz came tearing down the third base line, and the Cueto’s pitch deflected off Ryan Hanigan’s glove to the backstop.
It was an unorthodox way for Cruz to get credit for a steal of home, but the Los Angeles Dodgers weren’t complaining.
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For Cueto, it was another example of how much Cueto had to overcome in his matchup with fellow All-Star snub Chris Capuano. The Cincinnati Reds’ right-hander ended up with a tough-luck 3-1 loss despite another solid effort on Tuesday.
“Johnny just got a couple of pitches out over the plate,” Manager Dusty Baker said. “But we only scored one run. We had some opportunities early in the game, and Capuano squashed that. You knew it was going to be a good game tonight with those two guys pitching.”
It was 1-all in the seventh when James Loney singled with one out. Cruz, playing his second game with the Dodgers following his recall from Triple-A, followed with a double to the gap in left-center and Loney barely got his foot on the plate after Hanigan stuck out his left leg to block him.
Cruz continued to third on the relay from shortstop Zack Cozart, then was credited with the Dodgers’ first steal of home since Dee Gordon’s on June 1, 2011, against the Angels.
“I saw when the runner took off, so I threw it high. That way the catcher had a chance to get it and the hitter could not make contact. But it was too high,” Cueto said through a translator.
Scott Elbert (1-1) faced one batter, retiring Joey Votto on a flyout to end the seventh, and got the victory. Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth for his 13th save in 16 attempts.
Votto returned to the lineup and had two hits after missing two games because of inflammation in his left knee. Cozart returned to action just one night after getting hit in the helmet with a fastball by Chad Billingsley and getting diagnosed with a mild concussion.
“It’s part of the game,” said Cozart, who had a lingering headache before batting practice. “I’ve talked to Scott Rolen, and he’s been hit like seven or eight times in the head. Obviously it’s not good to get beaned, but it happened. I’m not mad at Billingsley or anything. He was trying to come inside and it got away from him.”
Major League’s Baseball has implemented a seven-day disabled list for players who have had concussions, but Cozart was glad the Reds didn’t have to use it.
“MLB is taking concussions very seriously, like the NFL, and that’s why they put that seven-day DL in this year — just so you could get a little breather and get your brain back to normal,” Cozart said. “Any time you hear `mild concussion,’ I mean, I wasn’t expecting to come in today and feel as good as I do and to be in the lineup. So I’m thankful that I’m OK.
“Last night I texted our trainer, Paul Lessard, and I texted him again this morning when I woke up. He said: `Go walk around for a little while, do whatever you do and see how you’re feeling.’ I’ve had a slight constant headache. I don’t know how hard the pitch was, but when you get hit in the head like that, I’m guessing you’ll have a headache for a little while.”
Cueto (9-5) allowed three runs and seven hits over seven innings. Capuano yielded a run, six hits and three walks through six innings and struck out six before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter.
“I got into some tough situations where I really had to try to not think about anything else or else it could have snowballed out of control,” Capuano said. “I was aware that they had Cueto on the other side, and he was pretty effortlessly cruising through that game. So I knew that one pitch was going to be the difference.”
Cueto committed a balk with two out in the sixth while stepping off the rubber to get a fresh set of signs from Hanigan. That moved up Elian Herrera, and Bobby Abreu drove him in with a single that tied the score.
Cueto led off the Reds’ fifth with a single, advanced on Votto’s two-out single and came home when Brandon Phillips doubled.
Capuano escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth. He retired his first two batters before giving up two walks around a single by Ryan Ludwick, but Hanigan grounded out.
The Reds this season are batting a meager .201 with runners in scoring position and two out. Jay Bruce had two such opportunities, but grounded into a fielder’s choice in the first and struck out in the fifth.
NOTES: Cruz started at third in place of Juan Uribe, who has a sprained right ankle. X-rays taken Tuesday were negative. … Reds CF Drew Stubbs was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and is hitless in his past 24 at-bats. … Cincinnati’s next two games will be against starting pitchers who used to be with the Reds — Aaron Harang of the Dodgers and Edinson Volquez of the Padres. Mat Latos will start Thursday against Volquez at San Diego, their first matchup since they were traded for each other in December.