Reds hang in playoff hunt
HOUSTON—Dusty Baker had his fingers crossed that Johnny Cueto would be OK in his return from a long stint on the disabled list last night.
After the fifth inning, the manager could breathe a sigh of relief with his ace done for the night after a solid outing.
Pitching for the first time since straining the muscle below his right shoulder back on June 28, Cueto (5-2) allowed just five hits and struck out five with one walk for the win.
“He was pretty sharp,” Baker said. “Had good velocity.
“Let’s hope that he continues to be well, continues to get better, his endurance gets better.”
With the win, Cincinnati moved five games ahead of idle Washington for second NL wild card.
The Nationals’ game last night against Atlanta was postponed due to the shootings at the nearby Washington Navy Yard, which will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader today.
More importantly, the Reds moved within 2.5 games of Pittsburgh and St. Louis for the NL Central Division lead.
The Pirates were blanked 2-0 by San Diego while the Cardinals fell 6-2 to Colorado.
Cozart got things going for the Reds with his two-run shot to left field in the second inning.
He added a two-RBI single in the fourth.
The return of Cueto—Cincinnati’s opening day starter the past two seasons—could be a boost to the Reds as they make a push toward the post-season.
“That’s a tremendous shot-in-the-arm for our team,” Baker stressed.
“Guys were psyched that he was out there.”
And Cueto was excited to be back on the mound after finishing up a third trip to the DL with the same injury.
“I don’t have words to describe it,” he said through a translator.
“It’s something really incredible for me to go that long without pitching, and I came in today and feel really good today.”
He lasted 82 pitches yesterday, and didn’t allow more than one base runner in an inning until the fifth when Carlos Corporan and L.J. Hoes hit back-to-back singles with one out.
Erik Bedard (4-11) allowed four hits and four runs in four innings in his return from a stint in the bullpen for the loss.