Johnny Cueto Does It All in Season Finale for Reds


It was a bittersweet conclusion, as the Cincinnati Reds season ended on the back of a dominant performance by Johnny Cueto, leading them to a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Cueto became the club’s first 20-game winner since Danny Jackson back in 1988, and the first right-hander to do so since Sammy Ellis and Jim Maloney in 1965. In a season so marred by disappointments and oh-so-close, Cueto’s final day of the year had a fairy tale ending.

The Bats:

For the front seven innings, it seemed the season would end in the most appropriate of fashions. The offense has struggled so mightily so consistently, that being shutdown by Gerrit Cole on the final day of the season would not so much sting, as be a punishing reminder of the last six months.

While Billy Hamilton carried the torch in the leadoff spot for more than 90 percent of the season, it was Kristopher Negron whom was the second most impressive offensive rookie crash-landing on the scene in 2014, who did the job on Sunday. He would be the lone run to score through the front seven frames after his leadoff single would be good enough to score on a RBI groundout from Todd Frazier.

The subtle RBI by Frazier in the first would knot him with Devin Mesoraco for the team lead in that category. While both men had the rest of the game to break the deadlock, neither did.

Finishing the day 3-for-4 was Negron, who put an exclamation point on the game for Cincinnati when he mashed a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth that extended the Reds’ lead out to 4-1.

At his peak, Gerrit Cole retired 12 consecutive batters. That would be the same number of strikeouts he would rack up over seven innings, tying his career-high.

Yet, it was Johnny Cueto with the bat in his hand that did the glory work. After having depended on what has been a miserable offense just to get him in the ballpark of 20 wins, Cueto took matters into his own hands in the bottom of the eighth. Facing National League All-Star Tony Watson, Cueto lined a base hit into centerfield, scoring Jason Bourgeois and putting the Reds ahead 2-1.

In a season that did not lead to many uplifting offensive moments, Cueto’s base knock creates almost fictional proportions.

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The Arms:

It comes as no surprise that in his final start of the year; Johnny Cueto was everything Reds fans could have hoped for and more. Outside of a solo home run by Neil Walker, Cueto was virtually untouchable.

Finishing the day with eight innings pitched, Cueto would cement himself atop the leaderboards in the National League with the most innings thrown. Coming into the season, Cueto was a pitcher many were concerned about his durability, due to the arm injuries he has sustained in the past year and a half.

Wins have been relegated to a meaningless stat in today’s sabermetric day and age, but there is no denying the impressiveness of reaching the 20-win plateau—especially with this horrific Reds offense, and minutely small ballpark at his back. Arguably, Johnny Cueto’s 2014 season has been the best single season a Cincinnati Reds pitcher has ever had.

Shutting it down in the ninth inning was Aroldis Chapman. In Spring Training just over six months ago, some wondered if Chapman would ever get back on the mound in his life. Come the last batter of September, it ended how it usually does when the Cuban Missile is released—with a strikeout.

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76-86. The Reds’ final record does not even begin to represent how disappointing the season has been, considering yet another division title was the expectation.

For the first time since 2011, the Reds will be watching the Postseason from the sidelines. Opening Day 2015 is over seven months away, but it cannot come soon enough.