The New York Mets have had Johnny Cueto's number over the years, but there's reason to believe things could be different for the Cincinnati Reds' ace this time around.
Coming off his second complete game of the season, Cueto looks to lead the Reds to a season high-tying sixth straight win in Sunday's series finale at Citi Field.
Cincinnati (37-27) won Friday's opener 7-3 behind home runs from Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce, and Bruce homered again in a 4-1 victory the next day. Bruce's three-run shot in the first inning Saturday was more than enough support for Homer Bailey, who pitched eight strong innings to help the NL Central-leading Reds win their fifth in a row and move a season-best 10 games over .500.
"We've started hitting a little better lately and I think we're going to continue to do that," Bruce told the Reds' official website. "But pitching - we go as the pitching goes. It's been great."
To get their first sweep over the Mets (35-31) since 2005 and first in Flushing since 2001, the Reds turns to their most reliable pitcher, but Cueto (7-3, 2.46 ERA) hasn't had much success in this series.
In five career starts against New York, Cueto is 0-3 with a 6.58 ERA, his highest ERA against any team he has faced more than three times.
Taking the ball at Citi Field on Sunday afternoon, though, could bring about different results. The right-hander has yielded two runs or fewer in six of his seven road starts, and his 1.37 ERA in day games is best in the majors among those with at least 30 innings pitched.
Pitching under the lights Tuesday in Cincinnati with more than a half-dozen of his teammates dealing with a stomach virus, Cueto came up with a huge performance in a 7-1 win over Cleveland. He gave up six hits while striking out seven and allowed only one runner to reach second base.
Although he is pitching like he could be named to his first All-Star team, Cueto has struggled with his control and is tied for the most hit batsmen in the NL with six. This could make for an interesting finale with the Reds and Mets trading beanings in the first two games. Joey Votto and David Wright were both hit in the opener and Bruce and New York cleanup batter Lucas Duda were plunked Saturday.
Prior to Saturday's game, the Mets, losers of eight of 12, placed Jason Bay on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion sustained while crashing into the wall trying to catch Bruce's inside-the-park homer Friday.
Wright drove in the Mets' lone run Saturday with a double to extend his hitting streak to seven games. He's batting .357 with a homer in 14 career at-bats against Cueto.
New York counters with Chris Young (1-0, 3.38), who is hoping to build on an encouraging outing.
In making his second start since returning from shoulder surgery that sidelined him most of last season, Young got into some early trouble Tuesday against Tampa Bay before settling down and earning his first win since April 5, 2011.
"The command got better. Life on the ball got better,'' said Young, who allowed two runs - both in the first inning - and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings of an 11-2 victory. "Everything felt a lot better as I went. It was a positive sign.''
Limited to only 10 starts since the start of the 2010 season because of right shoulder problems, the right-hander has a 3.60 ERA in two career starts against the Reds without a decision.