Johnny Cueto’s first two major-league starts have been outstanding.
Cueto (1-0, 2.03 ERA), a native of the Dominican Republic, was terrific in his second career start on Tuesday, allowing two runs and five hits with eight strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-2, 10-inning loss at Milwaukee. His only mistake came when Bill Hall started the seventh inning with a home run.
That performance came after the highly touted rookie right-hander had a sensational major-league debut on April 3, giving up one run and one hit while fanning 10 in seven innings of a 3-2 win over Arizona.
“He’s throwing strikes, quality strikes,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He only made one mistake (Tuesday). That was a hanging breaking ball to Billy Hall. He doesn’t seem to miss those.
“He’s a pretty poised young man.”
Cueto will now try to help the Reds (6-6) avoid being swept by the Pirates (5-6) for the first time in a three-game series since July 23-25, 2004, at PNC Park.
Cincinnati had 14 hits, but stranded 11 runners while committing three infield errors to lose 4-3 on Saturday. It came a night after the Reds left 12 runners on base in falling 1-0 in the series opener.
Edwin Encarnacion appears to be turning around a sluggish start to the season, going 4-for-11 (.364) with a home run and two RBIs in the last three games, but he committed two errors Saturday to give him four on the season. In his first eight games of 2008, the third baseman went 2-for-24 (.083) with one homer and three RBIs.
Encarnacion is 19-for-44 (.432) with a home run and nine RBIs in his last 10 games at Pittsburgh.
The Pirates hope Tom Gorzelanny (0-1, 10.80) can rebound from matching the shortest start of his career in a disastrous effort.
The left-hander was tagged for seven runs and six hits with four walks while committing a run-scoring throwing error in 2 1-3 innings of a 10-8, 12-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs on Monday. It was his shortest outing since he lasted 2 1-3 innings in a loss at the New York Mets on July 25.
“I didn’t get the job done,” Gorzelanny told the team’s official Web site. “I take full responsibility for that entire game. It all starts with the starting pitcher. I didn’t do it, and they had to play their (tails) off to get back in the game.”
Gorzelanny is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in two career starts against Cincinnati.
The Pirates hope Nate McLouth can continue his torrid hitting. The center fielder has started the season with an 11-game hitting streak, totaling a major league-leading 21 hits with a .396 batting average and 11 RBIs - a mark he didn’t reach last season until July 29. He drove in the go-ahead run Saturday as he went 2-for-5.
“Nah, I try not to pay attention to that stuff,” McLouth said of being the hits leader. “When you’re getting those everyday at-bats and good things start to happen, you’re able to carry it from one night to the next and kind of build off it.”