Johnny Cueto Claims the Battle of the Aces


Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Winners of six of their last seven contests, the Cincinnati Reds kept rolling on Friday night as they toppled the San Francisco Giants 6-2.

Just a night after watching teammate Mike Leake carve apart the Giants’ order, the de facto ace of the National League this year in Johnny Cueto upped the ante. While two runs may have snuck across the plate, let there be no doubt about how terrifically dominant Cueto was.

In an attempt to go for his fourth complete game of the season, Cueto was unable to go the distance, stalling at 106 pitches and just two outs short of the finish line. Fortunately, for him, the Cuban Missile Aroldis Chapman was primed and ready to end the night.

A matchup of Johnny Cueto vs. Madison Bumgarner promised two of the National League’s finest pitchers colliding head-to-head. The game ultimately boiled down to which pitcher would blink first.

Through the front four, Cueto had not so much as allowed a hit, with his only baserunner stemming from an error by Brandon Phillips. The Reds had gotten on against Bumgarner, but both Billy Hamilton and Todd Frazier were picked off first base in the first inning.

Things changed in the fifth inning. Nearly coming out of his shoes, Devin Mesoraco got the inning going with a double down the left field line that may have been construed as coming out of a rocket launcher. With the bottom third of the order approaching, and Bumgarner still throwing well, the Reds recognized the apparent need for just a single run—although, they would get five.

Getting the scoring started for the second straight night, Zack Cozart lined a base hit to bring home Mesoraco, pushing the Reds ahead 1-0. After Buster Posey misplayed a Johnny Cueto sacrifice bunt attempt into no outs being recorded, the Reds took advantage.

Billy Hamilton would bloop a two-RBI single down the right field line, followed by a rocket-shot, run-scoring single from Frazier. Wanting to join the hit brigade, the ninth man to bat in the inning—Jay Bruce—would sting an RBI single of his own. Ten men would bat with six getting hits and five scoring. Out of seemingly nowhere, Bumgarner had his doors blown in.

The five-run lead would be more than substantial for Johnny Cueto and his minuscule ERA.

A walk to the eight-hitter Brandon Hicks and a thunderous triple to Tyler Colvin would prove as the only true dents in the armor of Cueto as the Giants got two runs back on the board in the sixth. While he would only strike out three for the game, his pitch count was vastly more manageable, pitching all the way into the ninth inning without taxing his arm.

His streak of seven consecutive games with an extra-base hit may have come to an end, but Jay Bruce was undoubtedly pleased with his 2-for-4 night in which he drove In two runners. Replay would confirm his second RBI in the top of the seventh on a Hunter Pence trap.

As a team, the Reds would go 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position. On the contrast, the Giants went 0-for-4. So is the story of a pitcher’s duel.
Friday night’s victory personified the 2014 version of the Cincinnati Reds. They stole bases (Frazier, Bruce, Hamilton with one each), had one big inning (five-run fifth), played stellar defense (Zack Cozart and Brandon Phillips, as always) and dominated with their pitching. The game would end on an elevated Aroldis Chapman fastball that would make the sweet sound of “THWACK!” as it nestled into Mesoraco’s glove.

Having already earned at least a split of the series, the Reds now look forward to winning, and potentially sweeping this four-game series by the bay.

Alfredo Simon will get the ball on Saturday night, opposite Matt Cain. The game will begin at 10:10 p.m. with the first pitch shortly thereafter.