Thanks in part to strong performances from their pitchers, the Cincinnati Reds have enjoyed a surprising run to the top of the NL Central.
Given their recent history, the Reds’ time in first place could prove fleeting, but Johnny Cueto(notes) will try to keep his team there after Monday night’s opener of a two-game series against the skidding Milwaukee Brewers.
A 1.88 ERA has helped Cincinnati win seven of eight, and the Reds (21-16) used that surge to push one-half game ahead of St. Louis in the division following a 7-2 home win over the Cardinals on Sunday.
“You’ve got to enjoy the moment - enjoy May 16th,” manager Dusty Baker said. “My dad always said, ‘Enjoy today because tomorrow isn’t promised to anybody.’”
Cincinnati, which has won 14 of 19, hasn’t committed an error in 11 consecutive games and has batted .314 over the past 10.
The Reds, however, are well aware that they haven’t enjoyed a winning season since going 85-77 in 2000. Cincinnati hasn’t been in first place this deep into a season since June 8, 2006.
“We have a few guys that keep everyone level and grounded. It’s not much of a lead,” Baker told the Reds’ official website. “We have a little different scenario now. Now we’ll see how we handle being the one that’s chased versus chasing somebody else.”
Cueto (2-1, 4.07) will try to keep the Reds in that spot by earning his third straight win and building on his most recent outing when he came within a few inches of a no-hitter.
The right-hander allowed one hit, Ronny Cedeno’s(notes) grounder off shortstop Paul Janish’s(notes) glove in the third inning Tuesday night against Pittsburgh. He finished with eight strikeouts and no walks while hitting a batter in a 9-0 victory to record his first career complete game.
“He’s always got his stuff,” catcher Ramon Hernandez(notes) said. “He’s been working at trying to get ahead of the hitters and not get too excited, concentrate a little more. He has a good idea of where he wants to put the baseball.”
The 24-year-old Cueto hasn’t been as dominant against the Brewers (15-22), going 1-1 with a 3.34 ERA in five starts, and he might have to outduel another emerging young starter to get a win Monday.
Yovani Gallardo(notes) (4-2, 3.06) is looking for his fifth straight victory, and the right-hander has posted a 1.55 ERA during his win streak. He allowed two runs over six innings and did not factor in the decision of a 9-2 home loss to Atlanta on Wednesday.
The Brewers continued their struggles at Miller Park over the weekend, finishing winless on a six-game homestand with a 4-2 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday night. They are a major league-worst 4-14 at home.
Milwaukee, though, has won three in a row and 10 of 14 on the road.
The Brewers haven’t dropped seven straight since a 10-game skid Aug. 25-Sept. 3, 2006.
Milwaukee lost its last four against Cincinnati in 2009 after taking seven of the first 11 meetings.