Reds ace Johnny Cueto kept Arizona off the scoreboard for the first six innings, and retired his first 10 batters in a row. But his night was not without drama as Cueto walked four with four hits and struck out three while working out of two bases-loaded jams.
A three-hour, 26-minute game, this was a lengthy night under steamy temperatures where the combined hits barely beat the combined walks, 13-10. There were a combined 20 strikeouts, including 11 for the Cincinnati pitching staff.
Arizona was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 men overall. The Reds were 1-for-8 in those situations and stranded six.
"Not a ton of offense on either side," said Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who provided the biggest highlight with a three-run home run in the third inning. "It was a well-pitched ballgame. You get pitching like that, you're going to win a lot of baseball games."
Facing a wild-throwing D-Backs top prospect in right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer, the Reds manufactured their first run without needing a hit. Drew Stubbs began the first inning with a walk and Zack Cozart reached on a fielding error by shortstop Stephen Drew. A one-out double steal put runners on second and third before a wild pitch in the dirt to Ludwick scored Stubbs.
Cincinnati is 31-2 this season in games when Stubbs scores a run.
The Reds' first hit didn't come until the third inning as Bauer dug his own holes with two walks and an errant pickoff throw. That set up Ludwick, who blasted a 1-0 pitch into the second deck of bleachers in left field for a four-run lead.
"After he hit that home run and gave me that lead, I said 'You know what? I'm going to stop this game here and we're going to get it,'" said Cueto through his interpreter.
Cueto, who was scratched from his start Sunday because of a blister on his right index finger, was bothered by the injury.
"It didn't open up to bleed, it was just the skin came off a little bit," Baker said. "It was expected with that rough baseball and the area is tender. He battled big time."
"I felt it a little bit. Thank God I finished my game without anything major," said Cueto, who is 6-1 in games he's started this season following a Reds' loss.
In the fifth inning, a two-out walk to Drew put Cueto in a bases loaded situation and he escaped with a Willie Bloomquist flyout to right field.
"He's got good stuff," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "He moves it around. He's got a good fastball, slider, a good changeup. He throws the ball where he wants to throw it."
In the sixth, Aaron Hill hit a leadoff single and Justin Upton singled with one out. Cueto struck out Paul Goldschmidt, but walked struggling .207 hitter Chris Young after running up a full count.
Next batter Gerardo Parra also worked a full count, but on his 106th and final pitch, Cueto got Parra to swing and miss at a high 94-mph fastball out of the strike zone to end the threat. Cueto pumped his fist and pointed to the sky as he walked off the field, sweating profusely.
"That was a big strikeout of Parra on that bad pitch because it would have walked in a run and I would have had to go to my bullpen earlier than I really wanted to," Baker said. "Johnny struggled, but he battled."
Cueto improved to 11-5 with a 2.28 ERA. He's one win shy of his career best of 12 set in 2010. Despite not being named an All-Star, he has the second-best ERA in the National League.
"This guy got out of trouble tonight and that's the mark of a good pitcher," Baker said. "His ERA isn't what it is if he doesn't know how to get out of trouble. He can dial it up when he wants to and when he needs to, which he did."
Jose Arredondo and Sam LeCure each gave up a hit, but both worked a scoreless inning apiece following Cueto. Sean Marshall was to finish the game, but gave up a pair of singles to put two runners on with two outs. With the heart of the Arizona order approaching, Baker summoned Aroldis Chapman, who notched his 14th save by striking out Hill with a 101-mph fastball.
The first-place Reds retained their one-game lead over the Pirates in the NL Central, but have a ways to go before being through the wilderness without Votto.
"We just have to pick one another up," Ludwick said. "We're still talented. Joey is obviously a $250 million player so he's an elite caliber, one of the best players in all the big leagues. You're going to miss him. That's part of it. We still have some pretty good players in here. I think we'll be all right."