Cueto baffles Pirates to get Reds a win
Zeros are easy-to-find digits these days in Reds and Pirates box scores. The Reds' pitchers are throwing up plenty of them, and the Pirates' hitters keep finding them after their names.
Johnny Cueto limited the Pirates to four singles while striking out nine during eight dominating innings, and Ramon Hernandez drove in three runs with a single to lead Cincinnati past Pittsburgh 5-0 Sunday for another road series victory.
The Reds pitched shutouts in each of their two victories in the three-game series - the fourth in a row they've won on the road, where they are 9-4. They have a major league-leading five shutouts in 24 games, three in their last four games, or only one fewer than the six they had last season.
Cueto (2-1) was in control from the start, striking out three of the first four batters he faced and nine overall with a fastball that reached 95 miles per hour and a difficult-to-hit slider. The right-hander has allowed two runs in 26 2-3 innings over his last four starts - an 0.67 ERA that lowered his season's ERA to 1.65.
"He was locating his fastball well, had a good tempo, and whenever he was behind he would back off and concentrate a little harder and relax and throw strikes," manager Dusty Baker said. "He's pitching great."
Cueto isn't alone in doing that on a much-improved Reds staff.
Five Cincinnati pitchers have ERAs that are below 2.99, and two more are at 3.24 or below. Arthur Rhodes completed the shutout by pitching the ninth inning, his 10th consecutive scoreless appearance.
"I want to go deep in the game," said Cueto, who wanted to finish up in the ninth but was pulled after making 109 pitches. "I'm working hard to be more consistent and that's the goal in every game, to go deep into the game."
The Pirates ran into the Reds at the wrong time. The Pirates, who ended a 22-inning scoreless streak while winning 8-6 on Saturday night, were shut out for the third time in four games.
"This is part of the game," Nyjer Morgan said. "It's one of those things where you've got to keep your head up and keep plugging away, and just believe in the guys behind you and everything will work out. He (Cueto) just kept us off balance and did what he's supposed to do."
It was the second time in the series the Pirates didn't manage an extra-base hit. They were limited to five singles by Bronson Arroyo and reliever Francisco Cordero in a 4-0 loss on Friday, two days after they had only two hits in a 1-0 to Milwaukee and Yovani Gallardo, who faces them again Monday.
"You're going to run into games like this," manager John Russell said. "They've got a good rotation. I thought we had some decent at-bats, hit some balls hard. We'll find ways to score. We're not going to dwell on this game too much."
Cueto faced only three batters in an inning five times, thanks to a pickoff and a double play, but Pirates starter Jeff Karstens (1-1) struggled during his five innings.
Karstens fell behind in the count 2-1 in the second before Jay Bruce homered deep into the right-field seats, his sixth. An inning later, Karstens walked the bases full ahead of Hernandez's three-run single off the right-field auxiliary scoreboard. Hernandez held up rounding first and was thrown out at second to end the inning.
"At least everything came out all right," Hernandez said.
Karstens walked four and gave up six hits and five runs, four earned, to elevate his ERA to 5.85.
Both teams came in with 12-11 records - the first time since 1999 they've met past May 1 when both teams were above .500. The Pirates have had 16 consecutive losing seasons and the Reds eight.
The Pirates were shut out for the fourth time in 24 games. They have lost five of six. ... Pirates SS Jack Wilson (sprained finger) took batting practice for the first time since going on the disabled list April 26. ... Reds SS Alex Gonzalez ranged deep into left field to make a backhanded catch of Jason Jaramillo's popup in the second.