Cueto is first to 17 wins as Reds top D-backs

Cueto is first to 17 wins as Reds top D-backs

Cueto is first to 17 wins as Reds top D-backs
PHOENIX -- Go ahead and pick a number, any number. Whether they're individual or team-oriented, they all seem to be favoring the Reds as they round the corner for the stretch run of the season.

First there is 79-52. That's the best record in baseball, and it belongs to the Reds following Tuesday's 5-2 win over the D-backs.

Then there's seven. That's the National League Central lead the Reds now hold over the second-place Cardinals, who lost to the Pirates earlier in the day. There are only 31 games remaining.

"We're playing good baseball. We're winning series," said third baseman Scott Rolen, who earned a walk after a 15-pitch plate appearance in a three-run second inning that gave the Reds the lead for good. "The Cardinals played well against us back home but we just made it up. We'll keep doing what we've been doing, trying to win series by pitching well and playing good defense."

Try 17. That's Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto's wins total, giving him sole possession of the Major League lead. But Cueto says he's not done.

"All I can promise right now is I'm going to keep going because I want to win at least 20 games," Cueto said through an interpreter.

Why not 2.48? That's the best ERA in the NL and it belongs to Cueto.

With 33, you have Aroldis Chapman's save total. With 25, that's the club-record number of consecutive saves Chapman has converted after pitching the ninth inning Tuesday.

Finally, 62 and six. Todd Frazier leads all NL rookies with 62 RBIs is tied for the rookie lead in triples with six as he padded his numbers while being opposed by a fellow NL Rookie of the Year contender in D-backs southpaw Wade Miley.

Although Miley pitched a nice game for seven innings, he will remain stuck at 14 victories. Cueto turned in a sterling seven innings while allowing two runs and four hits with one walk and five strikeouts to move to 17-6.

As the season nears the end, Cueto is continually enhancing his credentials in a crowded NL Cy Young Award race. He is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA over his past four starts and 8-1 with a 2.69 ERA in his past 10. Out of his 27 starts, he's allowed two runs or fewer 19 times.

"Johnny is certainly in the running," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "To me, he is the top dog. He has some more starts left. When the smoke clears, if he's pitching like he's pitching now, in my opinion he should [win the Cy Young]. More importantly, when he's winning, we're winning."

Cueto threw a lot of pitches early, with 43 over his first two innings and 55 through three. But after he gave up Gerardo Parra's leadoff double and a Jason Kubel sacrifice fly in the first inning, the right-hander went on to retire 13 out of 14 batters.

That run ended with two outs in the fifth inning, when Parra's double to left field scored John McDonald and made it a 3-2 game. But Arizona scored no more against Cueto, who followed Parra's double by retiring his final seven in a row. The stretch included three strikeouts, all on tough offspeed pitches.

"He's good, man. You've got to give him credit," said D-backs catcher Miguel Montero. "He pretty much never gives in and he's a tough guy to face because when you go out there looking for something it's like he's reading your mind. It's like he never throws you what you're looking for and it kind of screws you up a little bit."

In his previous start vs. the Phillies, Cueto was spent after only five innings.

"The last outing, I was feeling really well. I couldn't go harder than that," Cueto said. "It was the other way around with this outing. I was really tired and really heavy today. But that's how things go in this game."

The Reds jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the top of the second inning against Miley. The rally started when Frazier hit a broken-bat leadoff single to center field. What followed was the plate appearance of the evening. Scott Rolen batted Miley for 15 pitches, which included 10 foul balls with two strikes before drawing a full-count walk. Chris Heisey's single to right field loaded the bases. A wild pitch to Ryan Hanigan brought in Frazier for the Reds' first run, and Hanigan sent a two-run single to center field before Miley worked his way out of the 33-pitch inning.

"It's huge, especially when you give Johnny a lead," Baker said. "When you give Johnny a lead like that, he knows how to keep it."

Miley went on to retire 14 out of 15 batters until the sixth. Following Miley's departure, Phillips and Ryan Ludwick started the eighth inning with back-to-back singles. Frazier followed with a two-run triple through the gap in left-center field off Matt Lindstrom. It gave Jonathan Broxton and Chapman some extra padding to work with, but they wouldn't need it.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.