This is the last guy the Reds need to see struggle right now. Reds are 3-5 in the month September, a month in which they haven’t played a team over .500.
Before last Tuesday, Johnny Cueto hadn’t lost a day game all year. He’s lost twice since. He’s 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA in the month of September. It is worth noting that he went 4-1 with a 2.76 ERA in August, so it’s not necessarily factual to say he’s shutting down. But in four years pitching in the Show, his current 192 innings pitched marks the most he’s ever pitched in a season. His previous high was 185, in 2010. He’ll easily eclipse 200 by the end of this season.
I don’t think it’s time to panic. But this is the Ace of staff. It’s fair to wonder what’s up when he’s entrusted to defeat the Houston Astros and is given early admission to the showers. But if there is one common denominator we’ve witnessed in his previous two starts, it’s his change-up becoming a souvenir with runners on base.
You’ll remember the bomb by Rollins. High change-up, right field blast. Yesterday’s was a high change-up, given to the left field. According to ESPN’s Insider pitch track, Cueto only throws this pitch 10% of the time, way lower than any other pitch he’s thrown. Two change-ups have decided his previous two starts.
It’s hard to ascertain that he’s getting tired – he’s still bringing the velocity we’ve seen all year. But we do know for certain that Cueto is paying attention the Cy Young race. He’s mentioned it (solicited, of course) before and after nearly every start. Perhaps that’s weighing on the mind. Perhaps he really is getting tired. Or, perhaps this is a minor blip in the radar.
Whatever the case, it is without question that the success of this Reds team rests on his right arm.