Cueto of old keeps head up, beats Pirates

John Perrotto, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Johnny Cueto was disappointed the last two times he took the mound at PNC Park.
In his final regular-season start of 2012, the Cincinnati Reds right-hander missed a chance at a 20-win season when he did not factor in the decision. On April 13, Cueto suffered a strained right lat muscle that forced him onto the disabled list for five weeks.
However, things went a whole lot better for Cueto on Friday night as he allowed only one hit in eight innings to lead the Reds to a 6-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Cueto said he blocked out negative thoughts of his recent past at PNC Park -- where he had an 8-2 record in 13 career starts -- when he took the mound.
"You never know what's going to happen, so you can't get your head down," Cueto said. "You've got to keep your head up like you're a military man, keep your head up like you're a bodyguard. You've got to keep your head up and just keep going."
Brandon Inge spoiled Cueto's bid for a no-hitter with a one-out single to left field in the fifth inning.
Cueto walked one, hit a batter and struck out six as he improved to a 13-4 in his career against Pittsburgh. He also helped the Reds (34-21) end a two-game losing streak.
"He looked really good, like the Johnny Cueto of old," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He had great stuff, great stamina and just pitching a heckuva ballgame."
Sam LeCure finished the shutout with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
"We've seen Johnny real good before," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You saw the effort he was able to put up for them last year. He's come off the DL, he's got a WHIP a little over 1, the league average is 1.84, strikeout per inning. We saw it all tonight. He was very stingy."
Wandy Rodriguez (6-3) took the loss and had his four-start winning streak snapped despite giving up just two runs on five hits in seven innings.
Both runs came on solo home runs by Jay Bruce in the fourth inning and Brandon Phillips in the sixth.
It was Bruce's eighth homer of the season and Phillips' ninth. Bruce had been 2-for-33 against Rodriguez with 16 strikeouts in his career.
"You know it's there but I'm a better hitter than I have shown against him in the past," Bruce said. "It's nice to get (a homer) off him and now I have to keep on going when I face him."
Bruce and Phillips each had two of the Reds' eight hits and Derrick Robinson had two RBIs.
Cincinnati increased its lead to 4-0 with two runs in the eighth as Phillips scored on a wild pitch by Mike Zagurski and Robinson singled in a run.
The Reds scored twice more in the ninth on a pair of consecutive bases-loaded walk to make it 6-0. Robinson drew the first one from Zagurski then Bryan Morris relieved and walked Ryan Hanigan.
Zagurski was charged with four runs in 1 2/3 innings and needed 57 pitches to get his five outs. Hurdle stuck with the lefty that long in order to rest a bullpen that was needed for 5 1/3 innings a night earlier in a 1-0 victory over Detroit in 11 innings.
"Michael knew the role he was going to play tonight and I think adrenaline got the best of him," Hurdle said. "It will definitely recalibrate the bullpen, though. Sometimes there's a battle lost along the way."
The game was contentious at times.
In the first inning, Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen was hit in the back of the left shoulder blade by a Cueto pitch. McCutchen then successfully broke up a double play with a hard hook slide into shortstop Zack Cozart on a ground ball by Garrett Jones.
Phillips was hit in the left lower leg by a pitch from Zagurski to lead off the eighth in his first plate appearance after his home run. Phillips then stole second base, knocking shortstop Clint Barmes over with a hard slide.
NOTES: Pittsburgh 3B Pedro Alvarez sat out a second straight game after having dental surgery Thursday to remove two wisdom teeth. Inge again started at third base. ... The Pirates recalled OF Alex Presley from Triple-A Indianapolis and optioned INF/OF Josh Harrison to the same club. ... Cincinnati OF Chris Heisey (strained right hamstring) ran sprints before Friday's game and said he is "getting close" to going on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues. He has been on the disabled list since April 28. ... It was the 1,000th game played at PNC Park, which opened in 2001. ... Reds RHP Mike Leake (4-2, 3.02) will face Pirates LHP Francisco Liriano (3-1, 2.35) on Saturday night in the middle game of the three-game series.

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