Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto threw his second shutout and third complete game of the season yesterday as he and the Reds blanked the Padres 5-0. This victory is just a small sample of Cueto’s greatness so far in 2014.
“He was terrific,” manager Bryan Price said. “He’s had games where he’s been sharper, but he kept making pitches. I don’t know what else I can say about him.”
In his fourth victory of the season, Cueto pitched nine scoreless innings while allowing only three hits, two walks, and struck out eight Padres batters. With the win in Cincinnati, Cueto has lowered his ERA to a league best 1.25 and has an opponents’ batting average of .135 through his first nine starts of the season. Since ERA became an official league-wide stat in 1913, only two other pitchers have had an ERA of 1.50 and opponents’ batting average bellow .150 through their first nine starts; the other two were Luis Tiant, who pitched for the Cleveland Indians in 1967, and Don Sutton of the Dodgers back in 1972.
If we wanted to break down Cueto’s amazing season start even further than we should consider that his is the first major league pitcher to go seven innings and allow fewer than two runs in each of his nine starts since Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Harry Krause did so in 1909, according to Elias Sports Bureau. He is also the first Reds pitcher since Bucky Walters in 1944 to go at least seven innings in each of his starts.
It comes at a bit of a surprise that Cueto is not getting the national attention he deserves, but he also plays for a Reds team that has struggled to stay consistent at times this season. With an 18-21 record they currently sit third in the National League Central and are seven games behind the surging Milwaukee Brewers. Regardless of their record on paper, he continues to gain the support of his teammates with every passing start.
“He needs to start getting some national attention,” shortstop Zack Cozart said. “I was watching TV the other night, and they were talking about (Zack) Greinke and (Clayton) Kershaw and I’m like, ‘What about Johnny C?'”
Cueto is 4-2 through his first nine starts of the season and has already logged 72 innings with 76 strikeouts. He has allowed 33 hits this season, but has only given up 10 earned runs and seven homeruns. At 28-years old, he is currently in year three of his four year contract with the Reds and at $10 million dollars a season he comes at quite a bargain compared to most big name pitchers in today’s game. The Reds ace has an option for the 2015 season, which the team is likely to exercise or fear losing their young arm to free-agency.
When a reporter asked Cueto if he was the best pitcher in baseball, the young up-and-coming ace did not stir away from the limelight when he said:
“I would say yes because the numbers talk and my numbers are going to talk for me,” Cueto said, with assistant trainer Tomas Vera interpreting.
This is exactly the kind attitude the Reds need right now and the type of mentality that has proven successful for Cueto in 2014. He will likely make his next start on Monday with the team set for a three game series in Washington as Cueto goes for his tenth start and fifth win of the season. If Cueto can continue on this impressive pitching streak, and his Reds teammates continue giving him run support, then Cincinnati might be looking at their first Cy Young winner in their teams illustrious major league history.