Sunday, September 29, 2013

Johnny Cueto to take the ball in Pittsburgh


It appears the fate of Cincinnati's 2013 season will fall upon the arm of Johnny Cueto on Tuesday.

Following Saturday's loss to the Pirates, manager Dusty Baker announced that Cueto, and not Mat Latos, will get the ball for the Wild Card game at PNC Park. Baker cited the fact that Latos is currently battling arm soreness as part of the reason for the change. 

Cueto was previously slated to start Sunday's game. However, the game became inconsequential when the Pirates clinched homefield advantage for the one-game Wild Card round with Saturday's win.

Despite having made just two starts since returning from a three-month stint on the disabled list, teammates remain confident in Cueto's ability to get the job done.

"There's no question about it -- injury or not -- Johnny is still our ace," first baseman Joey Votto said. "I know that Mat Latos, he's definitely put a lot of pressure on the pitching staff, challenging them through his performance and certainly set a really high standard. But Johnny, he was hurt a good percentage of the year and probably should have been an All-Star last year and received Cy Young votes. They just don't hand those things out. Johnny looks like the same Johnny, and that's why I think I call him our ace."

"Cueto is one of the best pitchers in this game," second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "I'm looking forward to Cueto. I believe in Cueto -- we all do. Hopefully he can bring his A-game and be the Cueto we all know. If you're going to go down, you want to go down with your ace."

For his career, Cueto is 13-4 with a 2.37 ERA in 21 starts against the Pirates. Most of that success has come in 13 starts in Pittsburgh, where he's gone 8-2 with a 1.90 ERA.

Cueto's task won't be easy, though. He will be opposing a pitcher in Francisco Liriano who is 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 11 home starts this season. Additionally, Pittsburgh will be hosting its first playoff game since 1992, which is bound to make for a hostile environment for the Reds.

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