Johnny Cueto is back.
The Reds' ace rested his aching elbow for one turn before turning in a six-inning, two-run effort in New York. On Wednesday Cueto tamed the Twins 2-1.
The Reds gave him just enough run support. In New York the Reds' offense mustered one run. On Wednesday Cueto made two runs hold up. He finished with eight innings, allowing four hits and a walk. Cueto hit a batter and struck out eight.
"We are seeing something special right now," Bryan Price said. "His understanding of the game is rare. He doesn't look like an athlete but he's won the Wilson Gold Glove, he's our best bunter. Johnny is 90 percent pitcher and 10 percent showman. He first there was the Luis Tiant turn. Now he has the hesitation, the quick-pitch. He is like Juan Marichal and Tiant. Fans come to see him for things besides the game."
Cueto and his mound opponent rookie Trevor May had similar starts. Both produced 1-2-3 innings in the first. Cueto gave up singles to the first two batters in the second but made quick work of the next three hitters. May gave up three singles, the last of which was a sharp single to left by Marlon Byrd that loaded the bases with no outs. May struck out Eugenio Suarez and Cueto, then got Billy Hamilton to fly out to centerfield.
"I feel relaxed no matter what the situation," Cueto said. "Everything is normal. I feel like I can always throw a pitch where I want to."
Cueto knows he may not be in Cincinnati long. He knows he is in a great position to make a lot of money. He was wearing a shirt with dollar signs on it and pants that showed pictures of dollar bills.
"I didn't think about what I was wearing but now that you mention it, I like it," said Cueto, who doesn't think about trades or free agency when he is on the mound. 'Right now I'm pitching in Cincinnati and that's where I want to pitch. I like the fans here. I like my teammates. I like the city. They (Reds) can still negotiate with me. It is their turn."
Brandon Phillips was declared healthy enough to play with minor injuries to both hands. He showed it by hitting a double to open the third inning. He went to third on a wild pitch. Joey Votto's sacrifice fly gave the Reds a lead.
In the fifth, Hamilton walked with one out. May walked Phillips. Votto faced May with a full count. Hamilton and Phillips ran on the pitch. It was ruled ball four but backup catcher Chris Hoffman threw high to third in an attempt to nail Hamilton. The throw sailed into left as Hamilton scored.
"The catcher can't wait to hear the ball and strike call," Price said. "Just the threat of him running created the run. There have been pitchers using a slide step and delivering the ball in 1.3 seconds, a record time but he still steals bases."
Minnesota got one run back in the sixth. Brian Dozier picked on a low pitch and banged it between Todd Frazier and thirdbase for the Twins' third hit. Dozier advanced to third as Cueto fielded a dribbler by Eduardo Nunez and beat the Twins' shortstop to firstbase. Eddie Rosario's ground out scored Dozier.
Cueto was angry with himself for giving up the run.
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"He had the kid (Rosario) set up with two strikes. He knew he wanted to throw it a fraction of an inch higher to get the swing and miss," Price said. "Not only did he know where he had to throw it, the shape and speed of the pitch. When he released it he knew he missed his spot."
Cueto's single opened the Reds' seventh. Hamilton beat out a bunt. Phillips' attempt to move runners up a base resulted in May throwing to third to force out Cueto. Minnesota manager Paul Molitor brought in left-hander Aaron Thompson. Votto flied out on a 3-2 pitch. Molitor brought in J.R. Graham to face Frazier, who grounded out to firstbase.
Aroldis Chapman earned his 16th save with Hamilton making a diving catch to rob Torii Hunter of an extra-base hit.
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