The second-year right-hander looks to win a career-best fourth consecutive decision Wednesday night while helping the Cincinnati Reds sweep a three-game road series from the struggling Arizona Diamondbacks for the first time in almost 10 years.
Cueto (3-1, 1.59 ERA) struggled to find consistency as a rookie last year, finishing 9-14 and 4.81 ERA. He struggled down the stretch with a 2-6 record and 5.09 ERA in his last 13 starts.
The 23-year-old started 2009 in similar fashion, allowing four runs and eight hits in six innings of a 10-2 defeat to Pittsburgh on April 11. But Cueto has been outstanding since by going 3-0 with a 0.80 ERA in five starts, winning four.
“Last year, he just couldn’t stay away from that one big inning and the long ball, certainly,” Reds manager Dusty Baker told the team’s official Web site. “That’s what happens a lot of times with youth. You’re sailing along, and boom, all of a sudden it’s gone and you can’t put it back together.
“Now, he knows how to put it back together. He’s full of confidence.”
Cueto’s confidence appeared high Friday, when he limited NL Central-leading St. Louis to one run and five hits in seven innings of a 6-4 win. However, he attributed his recent success to some changes.
“I’m trying to be more aggressive,” Cueto said in Spanish, with teammate Ramon Hernandez(notes) translating. “Last year, I think I was moving my glove and tipping my pitches, so I’m not doing that this year. I’m just trying to be more aggressive and make them put the ball in play.”
Cueto is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts against Arizona (13-21), and will try to help Cincinnati (19-14) complete a three-game sweep there for the first time since June 21-23, 1999.
The Reds have won 10 of their last 12 games overall against the Diamondbacks after beating them 3-1 on Tuesday.
Cincinnati, though, may be without Joey Votto(notes), who is day-to-day after dizziness forced him to leave in the fourth inning. The first baseman missed four games with the flu before going 2 for 4 with two RBIs in a 13-5 win Monday in the series opener.
“I could see him batting his eyes, and we got him off the field,” Baker said. “They took all kinds of tests, and everything came out negative. Hopefully he’ll be all right (Wednesday).”
The Diamondbacks, losers of eight of their last 10, are expected to call up Bryan Augenstein(notes) from Double-A Mobile to make his major-league debut. The 22-year-old right-hander is considered one of Arizona’s top prospects, and will be replacing the injured Yusmeiro Petit(notes) (strained right shoulder).
Augenstein went 5-0 with a 0.78 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 34 2-3 innings over six starts with Mobile after going 7-5 mark with a 2.74 ERA over 22 starts in Class A.
The Diamondbacks drafted Augenstein in the seventh round out of Florida in 2007.