In an 11-5 Reds loss to the D-backs at Chase Field, Cueto labored, and a Paul Goldschmidt-led Arizona lumbered the ace, who allowed a season-high seven earned runs and tied a career high with 11 hits in only 4 1/3 innings.
"Things did not all go well," Cueto said via translator Tomas Vera. "Like we say, it's just one outing -- and a bad outing. I have a lot more outings coming. I just have to keep my head up and continue going."
How good has Cueto been this season? Entering the game, Cueto was 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in seven starts. His line Friday accounted for 41 percent of his total earned runs and about a third of his hits.
"The timing of it all wasn't good, because our bullpen was already beat up when we came in here," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We were hoping to get quite a few innings out of Johnny tonight and get our bullpen back right for the next couple of days until the off-day. It didn't work tonight."
Cincinnati (44-31) has dropped three of its last four games and is third in the National League Central race for the first time since May 30. Although the first-place Cardinals lost at home vs. Texas, the Pirates moved into second place by a half-game following their win over the Angels.
The Reds' eight-game, three-city road trip began ominously in the first inning as leadoff batter Gerardo Parra drilled a 2-2 Cueto pitch to right field for a home run. Cueto's pitch count was already at 47 through two innings, bloated by a bases-loaded jam that culminated in a two-run single to center field by Willie Bloomquist that made it a 3-0 game.
It was the first time in over a season that Cueto gave up a hit with the bases loaded. Combined for 2012-13, opponents were 0-for-20 in 23 plate appearances during that situation.
As he headed off of the field following the second, a frustrated Cueto whacked his glove on the dugout railing. But if there was a silver lining of any kind, he was healthy. It was Cueto's second start since returning from the disabled list a second time with a strained right shoulder.
"I feel normal; today I felt the best that I've felt before," said Cueto, who walked one and struck out three.
Cincinnati managed to stay in the game against D-backs lefty Wade Miley, who gave up three runs in only 4 2/3 innings. With one out in the Reds' fourth, Jay Bruce lifted an 0-1 Miley pitch high and deep to right field for his 16th homer of the season and No. 150 for his career. Bruce has six homers in his last eight games, all solo shots.
In a fifth-inning rally against Miley, Cueto got it started with a push-bunt single to the right side. Cueto later scored from second base on Joey Votto's RBI double. Next was Brandon Phillips, who hit a sharp grounder to shortstop and reached on Didi Gregorius' error as Shin-Soo Choo scored the tying run.
Cueto squandered the do-over he was given by his lineup as Bloomquist led off the Arizona fifth with a single. Next was Goldschmidt, who pummeled a 1-0 pitch for a two-run homer to right field.
"He was getting balls over the heart of the plate," Baker said. "His slider wasn't as sharp, like the one he threw to Goldschmidt. It just sort spun right there like a cement-mixer. It wasn't really breaking. He was almost Johnny tonight. He just wasn't sharp."
Cueto gave up two more hits and was finished after Jason Kubel's single.
"He's one of the best; you look at his numbers, really his whole career," Goldschmidt said of Cueto. "We knew he was going to be tough, but we were able to get some baserunners on against him, then get some big two-out hits."
Reliever J.J. Hoover gave up two inherited runs on a Martin Prado sacrifice fly and a wild pitch to Parra that scored Kubel. Both were on Cueto's ledger.
The seven runs allowed were Cueto's most since he allowed eight vs. the Brewers on Sept. 22, 2010, and his hit total equaled the career high set May 25, 2012, vs. Colorado.
"That's part of the game," Cueto said. "Sometimes you're going to be good, and sometimes you're not going to be good."
Against reliever Curtis Partch in the sixth inning Friday, Goldschmidt tattooed a second homer off the batters' eye in center field for a solo long ball that started a second four-run inning. For Arizona, the breakout night was welcome for a team that compiled 14 runs over its last six games.
"I had to leave a couple of guys out there in a sacrificial lamb situation to save some of the other guys," Baker said. "We're just kind of spent right now. We need to regroup tomorrow and the next day, and then take a much-needed break."