Cueto, Pena potent tag team

Johnny Cueto made it back-to-back complete game wins over the Pirates with Tuesday’s 4-1 victory. One of the things in common with the previous Cueto outing — a three-hit shutout and 4-0 win over Pittsburgh at GABP, was catcher Brayan Pena. Although the backup, Pena worked with Cueto both times.

“Honestly, you have to give him a lot of credit,” Pena said. “I think he continued with his game plan, the same way that we pitched in Cincinnati. We just attacked. He went out there and mixed it up. You saw the cutter in and out, front door, back door and that changeup wasn’t as effective as it was before but it served its purpose to show it to them and go back to the cutter. It was unbelievable. You have to tip your hat to [Andrew] McCutchen, he hit that cutter to the opposite field out of the ballpark. Other than that, he was close to flawless.”

“It was terrific,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He was throwing with Brayan Pena again and it’s a nice little tandem. It was a little different mix, a little bit more off-speed than the last time, more changeups and sliders and backdoor breaking balls. The first time through was really a heavy sinker-cutter combination and he was very, very sharp. I didn’t think he was as sharp today but had a similar outcome.”

Other items of note:

*Cueto’s scoreless streak ended at a career-high 21 innings with McCutchen’s homer in the ninth. Among Reds starters, Mike Leake and Mat Latos each threw 21 2/3 scoreless innings last season. Reliever J.J. Hoover threw 26 1/3 scoreless innings last season also.

*Until tonight, Latos was he last Reds pitcher to throw consecutive complete games (3-1 win on 6/25/12 vs Mil, 2-1 win on 6/30/12 at SF).

*Tom Seaver remains the last Reds pitcher to throw consecutive complete-game shutouts (4-0 win on 9/20/77 at SD, 4-0 win on 9/25/77 at ATL).

*Cueto became the first pitcher to log his first 1,000 career innings while pitching for the Reds since Tom Browning from 1984-89.

Read the game story, including Cueto’s thoughts on the evening, on MLB.com and Reds.com.

Hoover in big struggle

It’s no secret that some Reds fans have a big target of angst and dismay focused on reliever J.J. Hoover right now (just look at my Twitter timeline for proof). The numbers certainly support their displeasure.

In seven appearances, totaling 5 1/3 innings, Hoover has a 13.50 ERA with eight earned runs and seven hits allowed. The most troubling number is the eight walks, including three in Monday’s 6-5 walk-off loss to the Pirates. Walks were an issue when he was not sharp at Spring Training as well. He had seven walks in eight innings and a 5.63 ERA.

Hoover struggled at the beginning of 2013, also, but was able to turn it around. He lost his first five decisions to begin the season 0-5 and then won his last five. The first three of Hoover’s losses came within the first 10 games of the season, including two in extra innings but walks weren’t as big of a factor even though his slider was not working well. He had five walks and 13 strikeouts (and three homers allowed) over his 12 2/3 innings in April a year ago.

Many forget now that Hoover finished 5-5 with a 2.86 ERA and led the pitching staff with 69 appearances. He walked 26 and struck out 67 in 66 innings.

Now the question is, can he turn it around once again?

Game 20: Reds at Pirates

Hamilton 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Ludwick 7
Pena 2
Cozart 6
Cueto 1

Tough loss to Pirates

Items of note following a 6-5 Reds loss to the Pirates on Monday ….

*Pirates starter Francisco Liriano hit leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton in the right leg with his very first pitch of the evening. It didn’t appear to slow the speedy Hamilton, who managed to advance from first base to third base on a Joey Votto to the mound. Hamilton, who was running on the pitch, never stopped at second base when Liriano threw to first base. It was impressive. Hamilton scored on a Phillips fielder’s choice play when catcher Russell Martin dropped third baseman Pedro Alvarez’s throw.

*Mike Leake gets a no-decision following 7 ip,8 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 HB, 2 K. The big hit was Ike Davis’ grand slam in the fourth.

“There was a chance to hit for him after six innings,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “With our bullpen the way it was set up today, we knew we had a couple of guys we weren’t able to use. I thought it was valuable to keep him in the game. He did a great job of throwing the seventh inning and was actually in line to at least go out there and at least face McCutchen and then bring Parra in to face Alvarez. We got to a spot in the lineup that I thought we needed to roll the dice with Heisey there and see if we could break the game open.”

*Price said Sean Marshall was one of the relievers not available tonight.

*On why Manny Parra was used to start the eighth and face Andrew McCutchen, who was 6-for-14 lifetime vs. Parra?

“Don’t forget, a lot of the numbers are based on Manny when he was in Milwaukee and he wasn’t the same Manny Parra we are seeing now, No. 1. No. 2, that people don’t know going into the game, there were a couple of guys we weren’t going to use in the game. I didn’t have the luxury of using a right-handed relief pitcher for one hitter to get to Manny and then to get to Hoover. It would have destroyed our bullpen. We were heading towards extra innings, potentially in a one-run game at the time. I have a lot of confidence there in Manny. Manny hung a split and McCutchen hit it out of the ballpark but I don’t regret the decision. We did not feel we could utilize a pitcher for one out the way we were set up in our bullpen for the rest of the game.”

*Davis hit his second homer of the season — both were grand slams vs. the Reds with the other one coming as a member of the Mets on April 5. This time, he broke his bat to hit one out to right field against Leake. Davis and Leake were Arizona State teammates in college. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Davis joined Mike Piazza and Ray Boone as the only Major Leaguers to hit grand slams vs. one team for two different teams in the same season.

Read more on the game at MLB.com/Reds.com

Reds by the numbers

The Reds provided some stat information this afternoon…

*The Reds have allowed only one unearned run this season, tops in MLB (the only unearned run came on 4/18 at Cubs, by Alfredo Simon)

*The Reds have seven errors, one behind the MLB best Astros (six errors)

*Since 4/13, the Reds lead MLB in the following categories: 46 runs, .313 average, .379 OBP, .522 SLG

*Since 4/12 (the day Joey Votto moved to the second spot in the lineup), the Reds lead NL in the following categories: 46 runs, .297 average, .363 OBP, .493 SLG

Game 19: Reds at Pirates

Hamilton 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Frazier 5
Bruce 9
Ludwick 7
Mesoraco 2
Cozart 6
Leake 1

Games 16-18: Reds at Cubs

The series at Chicago will be carrying on without me. I will be in Pittsburgh on Monday for the rest of the road trip.

Please check out the coverage on Reds.com/MLB.com and feel free to chat amongst yourselves (politely) here.

Hamilton creates runs for Cueto

I will have everything on Johnny Cueto’s fantastic three-hit shutout for a 4-0 Reds win over the Pirates on MLB.com. Please check it out by clicking here.

There were some other things that helped key the win, including in the first inning and the seventh. Both involved Billy Hamilton. After he drew a leadoff walk, Hamilton was halfway to second base as Francisco Liriano pitched to Joey Votto. Before you knew it, Liriano had two walks and two wild pitches, the latter to Brandon Phillips scoring Hamilton for a 1-0 lead.

In the seventh, Hamilton reached on a fielder’s choice. With two outs and Votto batting, Liriano was forced to slide-step on the mound to hold Hamilton. He missed with a 0-1 pitch over the plate and Votto hit a two-run homer that effectively put the game away.

“We put some pressure on Liriano in front of Votto and Joey was able to take advantage of a pitch up in the zone and hit it out. That was a big cushion there,” Reds manager Bryan Price said.

Other items of note:

*Price was pretty pleased with the win, especially the Reds’ first series win.

“All the way around, it was a great game,” he said. “I don’t know how many different ways to say it. It set a tone for us to play a good team at home and win a series, especially after losing that tough first game. To come back and win the next two was big. We need to string wins together. We need to start to win series. It’s important. Treading water and being 5-10 after five series just doesn’t show the signs we want of turning things around. This series did.”

*Cueto was called out for interference, not once but twice, while bunting. The first time in the second inning, Cueto tried to sacrifice but ran out of the box too quickly and touched the ball. In the fifth, he stayed in the box as he bounced one in front of the plate but was in the catcher’s way. Both times, he putout is credited as “2 unassisted.”

*In the seventh, Cueto swung away and hit a clean one-out single to center field.

*Pirates LF Jose Tabata suffered “concussion-like symptoms” from colliding with the left field wall to make a great catch against Brayan Pena for the first out in the Reds’ fifth inning. Tabata needed to be looked at by the trainer for several moments before being walked off of the field.

*Funny moment ended the top of the sixth inning. After Andrew McCutchen swung and struck out on a Cueto pitch in the dirt, he did not run to first base. When catcher Brayan Pena picked up the ball, McCutchen put out a fist bump to the ball for the tag and third out.

*Hamilton had two stolen bases on the afternoon. It was his second two-steal game of the season and fourth of his brief career.

Game 15: Reds vs. Pirates

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Game 14: Reds vs. Pirates

Heisey 7
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Bernadina 8
Mesoraco 2
Cozart 6
Leake 1

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