Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Posted: 10:22 a.m.
Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto hardly looked like a pitcher in line to win an ERA title the last time he took the ball.
He didn't look like one in his last start against the Chicago Cubs, either.
Cueto tries to bounce back from a rough outing and exact some revenge against a Cubs team that gave him trouble a month ago when he takes the mound for the Reds in Wednesday night's series finale at Wrigley Field.
After dropping Monday's opener 4-3, Cincinnati (70-72) withstood a late rally from the Cubs to win 4-2 in 13 innings on Tuesday. The Reds looked like they were going to cruise to a 2-0 victory with Mike Leake one out away from throwing a one-hitter, but Starlin Castro hit a two-out infield single in the ninth and pinch hitter Bryan La Hair followed with a game-tying home run.
Four innings later, Cincinnati finally earned its third victory in five games after Joey Votto's second RBI double of the game.
The Reds have been tough to beat with Cueto (9-5, 2.29 ERA) on the mound, winning nine of his last 11 starts. They won for the fifth straight time with him on the mound Friday, although the major league ERA leader wasn't particularly sharp.
Cueto allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings and didn't get the decision in an 11-8 victory over St. Louis.
"Johnny didn't have his normal good stuff," manager Dusty Baker told the Reds' official website. "He was centering some balls over the heart of the plate."
The right-hander, who had a 2.00 ERA in his previous four starts, endured his worst outing since permitting five runs, seven hits, three walks and hitting two batters in 3 2-3 innings of an 11-4 loss to the Cubs on Aug. 6.
Cueto, who opened the year on the disabled list with right biceps irritation, fared much better at Wrigley in his season debut May 8, yielding five hits in six innings of a 2-0 victory.
The Cubs (61-81), losers of 11 of 16, counter with Ryan Dempster (10-11, 4.75), who is 0-3 with a 6.06 ERA in his last three starts after going 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA in his previous four.
One of those victories came over the Reds at Wrigley on Aug. 5, when Dempster gave up two runs, four hits and a season-high tying six walks in six innings of a 4-3 win. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA against Cincinnati this season, yielding two runs or fewer in all three outings. He is also 2-2 with a 2.39 ERA in his last four starts in the series in Chicago.
Dempster didn't pitch badly against Pittsburgh on Friday, allowing three runs and seven hits while striking out nine and throwing a season-high 121 pitches in 6 1-3 innings, but wound up on the wrong end of a 3-1 score. It marked the seventh time in Dempster's last eight starts that he gave up three runs or fewer.
Dempster has done a good job keeping Votto in check, limiting him to a .174 average with two homers and seven strikeouts in 23 career at-bats.
Castro, who is batting .306 during an eight-game hitting streak, has had even less success against Cueto, going 1 for 11.
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