Bryan Price left it up to Johnny Beisbol
Cueto used his own bat to provide the margin for his career-best 20th win, becoming the first Reds' pitcher since 1988 to win 20 games. Danny Jackson won 23 that year. Cueto was the first Reds' right-hander to win 20 since Sammy Ellis won 22 and Jim Maloney won 20 in 1965.
The strategy was unorthodox so much so that Cueto didn't fully understand it. St. Louis Cardinal fans surely disliked it.
Bryan Price allowed Cueto to bat with the go ahead run on third with one out in the eighth inning.
"It was one of the worst decisions for me to make because I know what's on the line," Price said. "The Cardinals are watching the game too. Of course Cozart hits an absolute missile and that Harrison kid makes another great play. But hey the most important guy for me today was Johnny Cueto. If anyone deserved a chance to do that it was him. I put Johnny ahead of everyone else. I would not apologize for anything that we did in September. For a team out of the race, we honored the pennant race as much as we could."
Cueto wanted to hit but even second guessed the reasoning.
"I don't understand it," Cueto said with a wide smile on his face. "I still don't understand the at bat. I told my manager that I want to hit. He gave me the confidence to do it. I got the hit and I still don't understand it."
Two years ago, in the final start of the season, Cueto had 19 wins and the Reds knew he was going to start in the playoffs. The Reds took him out after seven innings of a 1-1 game. The Reds scored the winning run in the ninth, too late for Cueto to pick up his 20th.
"In that situation, we had the team first," Price said. "That was the right call."
Cueto and his mother expected 20 wins this season.
"I only ask God to be healthy and keep the team together," Cueto said through interpreter Tomas Vera. "I had 104 pitches and a man on third. I don't understand why he trusted me but I am happy that I got the hit. It feels great. I feel really happy. I feel really, really happy today."
Cueto is not concerned about the Cy Young Award that will likely go to Clayton Kershaw.
"You don't know what is going to happen," Cueto said apparently not knowing the media votes on the award and the consensus has been that Kershaw will get the vote. "I have the numbers. I have my innings. I have my strikeouts. Look where I'm pitching (hitter friendly Great American Ball Park). That's for you in the media.to worry about."
The Reds gave Cueto an early lead early in the 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on the final day of the season..
Kristopher Negron singled off Pittsburgh starter, Gerrit Cole. Brandon Phillips singled Negron to third on a hit-and-run play. Negron, going on contact scored on Frazier's grounder to third.
Cueto gave up two singles in the first but held the Pirates scoreless until Neil Walker hit his 23rd home run, leading off the fourth.
Cueto retired 14 of 15 batters after the home run and in the process tied Stephan Strasburg for the NL lead with his 242nd strikeout.
Travis Snider doubled with two out in the eighth and Cueto hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch. Cueto ended the inning by taking the throw from Frazier on Walker's ground ball.
"I was aggressive the whole time," Cueto said. "When Walker grounded out I felt really happy because I was behind in the count and when he hit the ground ball, I thought, "I got him."'
Pirates fans taunted Cueto last season in the wild card playoff game that Cueto started and chanted his name in the belief that they got in his head. Pirate fans started the chant late in the game.
"I heard them," Cueto said. "They think it bothers me but they only beat me one time."
Jason Bourgeois tripled to open the bottom of the eighth. With the infield in Josh Harrison made a diving catch of Zack Cozart's line drive. Bryan Price let Cueto try to win his big game with his own bat. The Pirates pitched out but there was no play on. Cueto fouled off a two-strike pitch. The worked the count full.
Cueto singled up the middle of the drawn in infield.
Yorman Rodriguez ran for Cueto, who ended his season with an eight inning, one-run effort with no walks and seven strikeouts. He finished with a NL Best 243 2/3 innings and tied for the lead with 242 strikeouts.
Kristopher Negron, clapping his hands before his sixth home run sprint of the season, took out some of the drama with a blast off Justin Wilson to give Aroldis Chapman a three-run lead to work with in seeking his 36th save in 38 chances.
Starling Marte extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a bloop single to center. Gabby Sanchez struck out swinging. Jordy Mercer was caught looking at a third strike. Tony Sanchez became Chapman's 106th strikeout victim on the season to end it.
With the loss the Pirates had to settle for the Wild Card home game against the San Francisco Giants.