Facing the Pittsburgh Pirates may be just what he needs to get back on track.
Cueto has an 18-inning shutout streak going against the Pirates, but the Cincinnati Reds right-hander will have to cool down a Pittsburgh offense coming off its best day at the plate in two weeks when the teams decide their three-game set Wednesday afternoon at PNC Park.
One of the biggest reasons the Reds (60-48) lead St. Louis by one-half game atop the NL Central, Cueto (10-2, 3.32 ERA) was 4-0 with a 0.88 ERA over his past six starts before taking the mound Friday.
He hardly had his best stuff against visiting Atlanta. Cueto made it through 5 1-3 innings, allowing four runs and a career high-tying 10 hits in Cincinnati’s 6-4, 10-inning loss.
Cueto should have a good chance to win a fifth straight decision Wednesday. Of his 30 major league wins, eight have come versus Pittsburgh. He’s 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three starts against the Pirates (37-69) this season, including a one-hitter in a 9-0 win at PNC Park on May 11.
He left after six innings with a blister on his right index finger in an 8-2 victory May 27, but extended his shutout streak against the Pirates to 18 innings.
Pittsburgh has had plenty of lifeless offensive outings against the Reds this season, as Monday’s 4-0 loss was the fourth time it had been shut out. The Pirates bounced back Tuesday, getting three hits and four RBIs from Neil Walker(notes) while building a six-run lead before holding on to win 7-6.
“The guys really came out and swung the bats and scored,” manager John Russell said. “We tried to let them back in it a little, but we finished it off. It was a solid win for us.”
The Pirates hadn’t scored more than six runs since a 15-3 victory over Milwaukee July 21. It had been 22 meetings spanning nearly a year since they last scored six against Cincinnati, a 12-2 win Aug. 22.
Tuesday’s victory may have come at a price. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen(notes), Pittsburgh’s leader in runs and stolen bases, left in the second inning with a bruised neck after being hit by a Mike Leake(notes) pitch.
X-rays were negative, but McCutchen - hitting .150 (6 for 40) against Cincinnati - could miss the series finale.
Jeff Karstens(notes) (2-6, 4.42) gets the ball for Pittsburgh seeking a fourth straight quality start, but he doesn’t have any wins to show for his last three. He’s 0-2 with a 2.50 ERA as the Pirates have given him just three runs of support.
Karstens scattered seven hits over six innings of a 1-0, 10-inning loss Friday at St. Louis. He is 0-3 with a 6.45 ERA in six games - three starts - against Cincinnati.
“Joey’s feeling better, feeling a lot better,” manager Dusty Baker said.
Votto is 4 for 5 with two walks against Karstens.