If Johnny Cueto has a pitching role model, it might well be the 2010 version of Felix Hernandez, who won the American League Cy Young award despite a paltry 13-12 record with the Seattle Mariners. Like King Felix four years ago, Cueto has pitched brilliantly for a Cincinnati Reds team that has struggled to score runs all season, leading to just seven wins against five losses through late June. On Friday night, Cueto and San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner lived up to their advanced billing through four scoreless innings until the Reds’ bats came alive for five runs in the fifth. Cueto never let up, though, and delivered a sparkling eight-inning performance that gave the Reds an easy 6-2 win.
On the game, Cueto gave up two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out just three batters. That lack of Ks is somewhat surprising given that Cueto generally strikes out about a hitter per inning and that the Giants have been fairly susceptible to the punch-out this year. For now, it has to be considered a one-game aberration, but a dramatic and sustained drop in strikeout-rate can be an alarm bell and is something to keep an eye on as we head into the All-Star break.
In this game, the Reds’ bats showed continued signs of coming to life, with strong performances by Todd Frazier and JayBruce. The offensive star of the night, however, was Billy Hamilton, who went 3-for-5 with a run and two RBI while also stealing his 33rd base of the season. Needless to say, if the Reds could maintain a six-run-per-game average the rest of the way, the path to the playoffs would be a lot clearer.
Cueto may yet become the next Cy Young winner with a milquetoast record for a mediocre team, but wouldn’t it be a heck of a lot more fun if he has some firepower behind him?