As Wednesday afternoon evolved, there was no doubt that the Reds-Pirates series rubber game at Great American Ball Park belonged to Johnny Cueto. That’s because the Reds ace simply took control of it and made it his own.
Cueto was the epitome of in command during a three-hit shutout and 4-0 win over the Pirates that gave the Reds their first series of the season in five tries.
“I felt really strong the whole time and confident,” said Cueto, who threw 107 pitches. “At the end of the game, I was really confident that every single pitch was good.”
Cincinnati has improved to a 6-9 record after winning three of its last four games.
“I think [Cueto] understands going into it that we’re sitting at 5-9 and hadn’t won a series,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “It’s a team we feel like we’ll be competing against all year for the division. Every game is important. It doesn’t matter if it’s April or September. We need to win games.”
“Yeah, it was pretty apparent what he was able do out there,”Andrew McCutchen said. “Numbers speak for themselves. He had all his stuff working today.”
“He was mixing that cutter and was unbelievable,” catcher Brayan Pena said. “He was using both sides of the plate. He was throwing front-door cutters. He was throwing back-door cutters. It made his changeup and sinker even better. He’s been pitching very good lately.”
Yet, Cueto has only one victory. Before Wednesday, the Reds had scored one run over Cueto’s 21 innings while he was on the mound.
“He’s been great the first three starts. He was dominant today,” Price said. “It was a huge boost for us because we were looking to win our first series and certainly Pittsburgh is a handful and has been.”
“You feel good, but when they’re scoring runs for you, you still have to concentrate and think it’s 0-0,” Cueto said via translator Tomas Vera.
“To start out as poorly as we have, it’s big to get these two wins and hopefully some momentum,” said Heisey, who started in right field for Jay Bruce. “It’s early but at the same time, I remember back in 2011 when we kept saying ‘It’s early, it’s early,’ and all of a sudden it wasn’t early anymore and we were out of the race. We have to play well. We can’t get too far behind. We have the team to do it. We have to put it all together like we have these last two games.”
“He would have gone out either way,” Price said. “He’s our ace. He’s our No. 1. We have an outstanding bullpen, but it was his game for me.”
“I never think too much about those things,” Cueto said. “That was 2013. This is 2014. That year is already over.”