CINCINNATI: Tuesday night was not the first time Johnny Cueto has punished the Indians.
It might have been interesting to see if Cueto could retire batters pitching from second base, the way the King and his Court fastpitch legend Eddie Feigner used to against local teams that challenged his four-man juggernaut.
Maybe that’s giving Cueto a little too much credit, but he was too much for the Tribe to deal with — on the mound and at the plate — as the Cincinnati Reds took the opener of the three-game series 7-1 at Great American Ball Park.
Cueto delivered a complete game, giving up six hits, walking none and striking out seven.
“Cueto was very good for them,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He pretty much toyed with us after the first inning.”
He teased the Tribe by giving up a run in the first inning on Shin-Soo Choo’s leadoff double and Jason Kipnis’ one-out single, but from then on, there was no doubt who was in charge of the game.
“We started the ballgame well, then didn’t get another guy in scoring position the whole night,” Acta said.
In the final eight innings, Cueto gave up four hits and picked off Michael Brantley, who singled in the seventh. In other words, he faced three batters over the minimum after the first and did not allow a runner to reach second.
In five career starts against the Tribe, Cueto is 3-0 with a 1.27 ERA.
If Cueto’s pitching wasn’t hurtful enough to the Indians, he rubbed it in by getting a key hit.
Indians starter Jeanmar Gomez spent five innings in and out of trouble. Most of the time, he escaped unharmed, but it became apparent by his last inning that it should be his last inning.
The Reds scored only once in the fifth, even though they loaded the bases twice. Gomez navigated through these dangerous waters, giving up the lead run on Jay Bruce’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly, but nothing more. After the sac fly, Gomez walked Todd Frazier to load the bases again but struck out Ryan Ludwick to end the inning.
The only other run off Gomez came in the third inning, when he gave up a leadoff single to the pitcher, Cueto, then unleashed a wild pitch to send him to second. Wilson Valdez’s single pushed Cueto to third, and he scored on Carlos Santana’s errant pickoff throw to first. Gomez was charged with two runs, one unearned, on six hits and four walks, two intentional.
“I think my sinker was good and my change-up was good,” Gomez said. “But I had a problem with my cutter, keeping it down.”
Acta’s remarks about Gomez’s outing were lukewarm.
“Gomez battled,” Acta said. “He made pitches when he had to. He was OK. He barely threw 50 percent strikes and he didn’t have his slider [cutter] today. But he did some things right.”
Even after Gomez (4-5, 4.71 ERA) left, the Tribe was only one run behind, but the bullpen saw to it that the Reds would not have to sweat out a close win.
Don’t blame Joe Smith, who retired the side in the sixth without incident but gave up a leadoff single to Valdez in the seventh. Acta replaced Smith with Tony Sipp, who continued his string of maddening outings.
On his third pitch to Joey Votto, the Reds slugger slammed a drive into the left-field bleachers for his 11th home run of the season to expand the lead to 4-1.
Sipp went on to retire the next three batters, two on strikeouts. But his earned-run average took another tick upward to 6.65.
“Tony has been good against left-handers,” Acta said. “They’re batting .160 against him. We’re trying to match him up against lefties, because right-handers are batting .380.”
“I think it’s coincidence,” he said. “If you make bad pitches, right-handers and left-handers are going to hurt you the same.”
Given the fact that a new face will be in the bullpen today, Sipp might be on his way off the roster, not only because of his erratic pitching but also because he has an option left.
The Tribe acquired right-hander Esmil Rogers from the Colorado Rockies for cash on Tuesday, and he will be added to the 25-man roster today. Rogers had horrid numbers for the Rockies, but he does one thing well: His average fastball registers 96 on the radar gun.
“He’s got a good arm,” Acta said. “We’ll see if we can get him over here and take advantage of it. We’re taking a flyer on him … He has some issues with consistency, but maybe a change of scenery will help him out.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.