The Cincinnati Reds are heading to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years after clinching the NL Central title on a dramatic game-ending home run.
Cueto, a possible starter for a playoff opener, looks to bounce back from his worst performance of the year when he takes the ball against the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
Cincinnati (88-69) won its first division title since 1995 with a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Astros on Tuesday. With the game tied at 2, Jay Bruce(notes) led off the ninth with a homer, spurring a raucous celebration at home plate.
“When he hit that one up there, there was a big sigh of relief and the party was on,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I’m as happy as a man can be. This is sweet. This is a special group, special guys and a special feeling.”
With the Reds celebrating the division championship long after Bruce’s clutch homer, it’s uncertain what kind of lineup Baker will use for this game.
Cueto’s chances of pitching Game 1 seemed to take a bit of a hit, however, after he was pounded for eight runs and eight hits in a season-low 1 1-3 innings in last Wednesday’s 13-1 loss to Milwaukee. The right-hander had a 2.18 ERA in his previous five starts.
“I wasn’t locating the pitches how I wanted,” Cueto told the Reds’ official website. “I was opening up too much and I was landing standing up. So my pitches weren’t locating. After I finished and watched the video, that’s what I figured out.”
Before getting hit hard by the Brewers, Cueto didn’t receive a decision after allowing three runs in six innings of a 5-3 win at Houston on Sept. 17. He is 1-1 with a 2.18 ERA in five starts against the Astros since the start of last season.
The Astros (74-83) lost their third straight Tuesday and have dropped six of seven after winning six of eight. They haven’t lost four in a row since Aug. 4-8.
After going 2-1 with a 3.31 ERA in his first six starts since being moved to the rotation, Figueroa has yielded five runs in each of his last two—both losses.
The right-hander gave up seven hits in 4 1-3 innings in an 11-1 defeat to the Reds on Sept. 18 before allowing six hits—two homers—in six innings of a 7-2 loss at Washington on Thursday.