Riding on the back of the current best pitcher in baseball, the Cincinnati Reds cruised to a 5-0 victory on Saturday night over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In what has become seemingly more than just another hot stretch, Johnny Cueto has officially arrived on the scene as one of the game’s premier pitchers. Two months into the season, Cueto has already tossed 91 innings and allowed just 48 hits. His ERA sits at an almost unsustainable 1.68, and he has struck out better than a batter per inning.
Going 7.1 strong innings tonight, it was once again Cueto who took the Reds home.
After a rocky first inning that required some extra life on Cueto’s fastball to escape, it was nearly easy sailing from there. In fact, the first frame would be the only time all evening the Diamondback hitters would string together multiple basehits in an inning.
A victim of some poor offensive luck, the win was only Cueto’s fifth of the season, giving him an underwhelming 5-4 record thus far in 2014. His only vice is the number four in the loss column, which is more a byproduct of having a streaky offense.
Thankfully, the bats were working Saturday night.
Getting a good look at Brandon McCarthy the first time through the batting order, only Jay Bruce’s seeing-eye single made its way through for a hit. As the fourth inning began, the hits began to come hot and heavy.
Three consecutive singles from Billy Hamilton, Skip Schumaker and Brandon Phillips all came in different varieties, but produced similar results. Sandwiched around Jay Bruce’s strikeout, Todd Frazier and Brayan Pena would tattoo run-scoring hits that made frighteningly loud noises coming off the bat. To say that the Reds were squaring up McCarthy on Saturday would be an understatement.
Picking up where they had left off the inning before, Hamilton, Schumaker and Phillips reenacted their bludgeoning of McCarthy by starting the fifth inning with three consecutive hits. Even though Phillips was gunned down on the basepaths after his shot to the left center field gap, the Redlegs had a 5-0 lead that would be plenty for Cueto.
A major criticism of the Cincinnati offense for the past few seasons has been their ability, or lack thereof, to put the finishing touches on a game such as the one on Saturday evening. Once Phillips doubled and gave the Reds a comfortable five-run lead, they managed just two hits over the remaining five innings of the contest.
Although, with the way Cueto has been pitching, one run would do the trick.
Tension came late upon Cueto’s exit from the contest. A walk, hit by pitch and infield single had loaded the sacks for the Diamondbacks’ best hitter, Paul Goldschmidt. Not in the mood to let one slip away, Bryan Price summoned Jonathan Broxton from the bullpen.
Blowing away Goldschmidt, and then getting Miguel Montero to pop up to squelch the threat, Broxton continued his domination over opposing batters this season. Regardless of his time spent on the disabled list, the calendar now reads June and still only a single run has crossed the plate against Broxton.
Even without their hottest hitter in Devin Mesoraco in the lineup, the Redlegs still managed to score at least five runs on back-to-back nights for the first time since April 20-21.
The attack was balanced with Brandon Phillips driving in two runs, and Skip Schumaker, Todd Frazier and Brayan Pena all contributing a run of their own.
Looking to head back to Cincinnati over .500 on the road trip, the Reds turn to Alfredo Simon on getaway day.
There is no question that with an off day coming up on Monday, the Redlegs are looking forward to getting back onto Eastern Standard Time and returning home, but winning a series over a club scuffling as poorly as Arizona is imperative.
The two clubs will square off at 4:10 p.m. as the D-backs give the ball to their ace, Wade Miley, a bearded left-hander, who will attempt to neutralize the suddenly awakened Reds bats.