Johnny Cueto Still Has Chance at 20 Wins


Sep 11, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) throws against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth inning at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

There were a few thrills in mid-summer, but for the most part, being a Cincinnati Reds fan has been painful in 2014.   One of the few consistent bright spots has been staff ace Johnny Cueto, who stayed in the hunt for 20 victories by throwing a 1-0 gem against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night.

Cueto allowed just three hits and a walk over eight innings to help the Reds take three out of four games in a series that meant little for Cincinnati but helped the Pittsburgh Pirates to edge within two-and-a-half games of the Cards in the NL Central.

The victory raised Cueto’s record on the season to 18-8, leaving him one victory short of his career high, which he set in 2012.   The Reds have 15 games remaining before heading out for the winter, and Cueto has at least two starts on the horizon:  against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on September 16 and at home against the Milwaukee Brewers a week later.

Despite the opportunity before him, a pretty strong argument could be made that the Reds should just go ahead and shut down Cueto for the rest of the year to make sure he is as healthy as possible heading into 2015.  After all, just last season he was limited to 11 starts with a nagging lat injury that could rear its head again at almost any moment.   He has also logged 222 innings, already his most ever in a single season, so there would seem to be a decent chance for injury due to fatigue.

In short, Cueto’s getting to 20 victories won’t do much for the Reds this season and could actually hurt them in 2015.

Even so, I expect that he will get his shot at cracking the score mark, maybe even extending into a third start during the season’s final week if it’s necessary.   Like a World Series run, 20 wins is not a milestone you can count on approaching every season, so the tendency will be to go for it.

Right or wrong, it will be fun to watch Cueto’s quest in final three weeks of the season.   Aside from getting the hot stove fired up early, it’s about all Reds fans have left.