As the Cincinnati Reds’ once promising 2014 season has crumbled around him, staff ace Johnny Cueto has quietly continued on his path toward Cy Young consideration. On Friday night, Cueto kept his foot on the gas in an eight-inning gem that helped the Reds get by the Colorado Rockies by a score of 3-2.
On the night, Cueto gave up six hits and two walks against six strikeouts, an efficient 106-pitch performance that pulled the Reds back to .500. The victory was Cueto’s 15th, tops in the Major Leagues and three more than any other Reds pitcher (Alfredo Simon).
While Cueto has been stellar in 2014 and is certainly in the running for the Cy Young award, picking up that hardware will be a steep order, thanks to Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. After some early season injury problems, Kershaw has recovered to post a typically dominant season.
For the year, Cueto leads LA’s ace in most counting categories, including wins, strikeouts and innings pitched, but Kershaw leads in the big rate stats like WHIP and ERA, and in WAR (5.9 to 5.5). Unless Kershaw falters or gets injured again, the Dodgers’ higher profile will likely give their guy the edge.
Still, Cueto has been dominant this year, and it’s remarkable that he has maintained his health a season after losing extended time due to injury. Not only is he pitching better than ever before, but he’s also within spitting distance of his personal high for innings logged in a season – he tossed 217 innings in 2012 and stands at 187.2 after last night.
While the Reds have largely disappointed in 2014, closer Aroldis Chapman has been his flamethrowing self and picked up his 26th save last night. An anemic offense generated three runs on the strength of 11 scattered hits, including four by Kris Negron. The last of those was a go-ahead single in the ninth that Cueto made stand up.
As he has been all season, Cueto was the Reds’ rock last night, and he always gives them a chance to win. Those are the characteristics of not just a Cy Young candidate, but an MVP candidate.