Going into his start against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, September 20, 2012, Johnny Cueto had not been himself. Cueto has had a dominant season so far with a miniscule 2.92 ERA and 17 wins to his credit. Still, his recent struggles were beginning to become a concern for some. As a huge Cincinnati Reds fan, I became used to penciling in a win whenever Cueto took the mound. His last three starts have been horrid by his lofty standards and it was starting to feel a bit like a trend. Then came the Chicago Cubs and all appears to be right with the world.
The struggles begin
Cueto had not won a game in the last three starts. That might not seem especially scary if it were not his fault, but the truth is he has pitched badly in those starts. In the last two games, he has not even gotten out of the fifth inning. For Johnny Cueto that is rarified air. With the playoffs right on the horizon, it was starting to get a bit nerve wracking. His speed seemed to be on point. He was throwing the ball hard and placing it well. Everything just seemed slightly off.
The Cubs can fix you right as rain
Cueto has dominated the Cubs all season long and had already beaten them three times this season coming into Thursday's matchup. He also has a tiny 1.21 ERA against the Cubs and went eight strong in two of the three games. If any ball club could help Cueto get back on track it would be the struggling Cubs.
A win without the win
Cueto ended up going six innings and giving up zero runs. He had some miscues by walking four and giving up five hits, but he managed the game well and worked out of spots. The only concern I had was that he only had two strikeouts. That is a bit low for Cueto. Fortunately, the Reds put up five runs in the seventh inning and held on as the bullpen tried to give up the lead. They hung on for a 5-3 victory, and Cueto earned the win. Regardless, he looked great overall.
This start does not solve all of my concerns about Cueto's slump, but it certainly answers the majority. Johnny will need to continue to mow them down for another start or two before I exhale.
*Southern is a life-long Cincinnati Reds fan that grew up watching Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and the boys dominate the Major Leagues. He longs for those days once again in Cincinnati.
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