Apr 16, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto bunts during the second inning during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds Wild Card Game rematch lacked the excitement of the postseason for most of the game. And then in the seventh inning, Johnny Cueto had a two-out, excuse me, single. It wasn’t pretty but it was a single and he flashed a giant grin to the Reds dugout. Ex-Pirates hitting coach Don Long had to be proud.
Billy Hamilton grounded to shortstop Jordy Mercer and the Bucs shortstop flipped to second baseman Neil Walker for the out. The not-so conventional play may have been to fire to Gaby Sanchez at first base to keep Hamilton off the base paths. The Reds speedster had a rather quiet series, but simply the threat of his speed was about to change the game again.
The Reds speedster stood at first base with a modest lead. Joey Votto stepped into the box.
To this point, the Reds had just one run. It was created by the speed of Hamilton in the first inning when he reached with a leadoff walk and much more quickly, reached third base when some wild pitches from Francisco Liriano were unleashed. The southpaw had only given up that one run the first inning. He was cruising through the Reds lineup.
The Bucs southpaw went to the slide step in order to keep Hamilton close at first. Votto made him pay, taking the big lefty deep for a two run bomb. Just that quickly, the scoreboard changed to Reds 3, Pirates zero.
Cueto took advantage of a wide strike zone and mixed speeds masterfully all throughout the afternoon. Liriano gave up three walks, six hits and struck out seven. The Bucs left hander threw 95 pitches with 61 going for strikes.
But the big story was Cuetos’ revenge. The Reds right hander carved up the Bucs lineup striking out nearly every Pirates player in the lineup for a career high twelve strikeouts–eight of them looking. The Bucco offense had just three hits and never more than one baserunner in an inning against the Reds righty.
The Reds scored their final run off Stolmy Pimentel in the eighth inning. A miscue by Travis Snider didn’t help the Bucs attempt to get back into the game. A review of whether Tony Sanchez violated Rule 7.13 also occurred. Silly stuff. It took about two minutes–and was absolutely unnecessary. Somebody should slap Jay Bell.
16,000 fans at Great American got to their feet as Cueto came out for the complete game in the ninth. The pitcher who was mocked into dropping the ball in a moment no Pirates fan will ever forget, struck out Starling Marte and Travis Snider looking before getting Andrew McCutchen to fly out. On this day, Cueto didn’t drop the ball. .