Cueto dominates Marlins in Reds' opener

April 5, 2012

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Joey Votto grabbed the cap off his head and tossed it into the joyous crowd behind the Reds' dugout as a way of saying thanks on opening day. Then he pulled off his batting gloves and flung those into the stands, too.

Johnny Cueto? He wasn't giving anything away. Not to the Marlins, anyway.

Jay Bruce homered and drove in a pair of runs, and Cueto dominated in his first opening-day start on Thursday, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-0 victory over the Miami Marlins before one of the biggest crowds ever at Great American Ball Park.

Cueto (1-0) anchored the Reds' first opening-day shutout since 1980, when Frank Pastore beat Atlanta's Phil Niekro 9-0. The right-hander allowed only three hits over seven innings, one of them an infield single.

The 26-year-old didn't sweat his starring role on the city's unofficial holiday.

"The young man is maturing big-time before our eyes," manager Dusty Baker said. "He doesn't fight Johnny Cueto anymore. Before, his own worst enemy was himself."

Cueto had his breakout season last year, when he stopped trying for strikeouts and brooding when something went wrong. He finished with a 2.31 ERA and gave up three runs or fewer in 21 of his 24 starts.

On Thursday, he pitched like he belongs at the top of the rotation.

"Of course, I felt that way," Cueto said, through a trainer acting as interpreter. "That's not the first time I've pitched against a No. 1 guy. I feel like I'm part of that group, too."

Left-hander Mark Buehrle (0-1) gave up Bruce's sacrifice fly and Ryan Ludwick's RBI double over six innings. Bruce also homered off Edward Mujica.

The crowd of 42,956 was the second-largest at Great American, trailing only a playoff loss to Philadelphia in 2010.

The Marlins arrived at 3 a.m. after opening their new ballpark in Miami with a 4-1 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday night. They managed only four hits off the defending World Series champions, and weren't any better after a few hours of sleep in Cincinnati.

"We have good hitters on this team," first baseman Gaby Sanchez said. "We know all of a sudden with these guys, it's going to be awesome and ridiculous. We just have to let it happen, not try to push it to happen."

Florida managed only three hits off Cueto and a bullpen depleted by the loss of closer Ryan Madson and setup man Nick Masset. Aroldis Chapman pitched a perfect eighth, and fill-in closer Sean Marshall retired the side in order in the ninth, striking out two with the crowd on its feet.

Then, the Reds celebrated with on-field hand slaps and a few mementos tossed into the stands.

"I'm emotionally drained," said Zack Cozart, the first rookie shortstop to start an opener for Cincinnati since Frank Duffy in 1971. "I'm ready to go to bed. It was very exciting."

Cincinnati's traditional home opener matched two of the majors' biggest offseason spenders.

Votto got a loud ovation during pregame introductions, a day after he signed a new contract that gave him an additional 10 years and $225 million to be the cornerstone of the small-market franchise.

Votto singled and got an intentional walk in four plate appearances.

The Marlins also went on a spending spree leading up to the opening of their new ballpark, shelling out $191 million to acquire NL batting champion Jose Reyes, Buehrle and All-Star closer Heath Bell in a move to make the franchise a contender overnight. They also hired manager Ozzie Guillen to oversee the fresh start.

Buehrle struggled with his control in the first inning on a windy, 60-degree afternoon. He escaped a bases-loaded, one-out threat by allowing only Bruce's sacrifice fly to the warning track in center. Doubles by Scott Rolen and Ludwick made it 2-0 in the sixth.

Both starters picked a runner off first, undercutting rallies.

NOTES: The Marlins were the only NL team the Reds hadn't played on opening day. ... Chris Coghlan started in LF for the Marlins in place of Logan Morrison, who missed time in March with a sore knee. Morrison played on Wednesday night in Miami and went 1 for 3. Guillen is being careful with him at the start of the season. ...Baker recalled that Guillen was his batboy when he played on a team in Venezuela in 1974. Baker gave him a glove to show his appreciation. "He's a good tipper," Guillen said. ... Rolen, in his first game back from shoulder surgery, made two nice defensive plays at third base to prevent hits. But he also committed an error. ... Hits king Pete Rose was among those in the crowd.