Cueto keeps resilient Reds half-game back

Cueto keeps resilient Reds half-game back

CINCINNATI -- Like seasoned outdoorsmen, the Reds have had the knack this season of dousing flames of concern before they can grow too big and get out of control.

Swept in Seattle last month? They respond by sweeping Oakland. A demoralizing ninth-inning meltdown in Atlanta in May? They bounce back by winning the next three series.

Monday's 7-2 Reds win over the Nationals came just after they were shut out by the Rockies on Sunday for the fourth time in nine games, including the third in five games by a 1-0 score. Cincinnati just found the nearest blanket and dropped it on the embers. It was the club's third win in four games since the All-Star break.

"I don't think it's been a big deal on this team," said left fielder Jonny Gomes, who went 3-for-4 with a homer and three runs scored. "This is team is doing a great job with adversity. You saw us with a four-game losing streak into the break. We came right back and got some games with Colorado. This team is real good at bouncing back. I think that's a real big characteristic in a team that has to go late into the season."

The win was important since the first-place Cardinals beat the Phillies to claim their sixth straight victory. Second-place Cincinnati remained a half-game back in the National League Central.

It was a game delayed for 42 minutes by rain before the top of the fourth. It did not seem to wreck starter Johnny Cueto's evening as he pitched a dependable six innings and allowed two runs on four hits with four walks and four strikeouts. Three of those strikeouts came during the top of the fourth after play resumed.

"I was feeling good. I was feeling too strong. I worked on overthrowing," said Cueto, who threw an estimated 30 pitches inside during the delay. It was also his first game in 10 days because of the break.

Cueto improved to 9-2 with a 3.39 ERA this season, but has a 1.16 ERA over his last six starts -- that's five runs over his last 38 2/3 innings.

In that span, Cueto actually has more walks (15) than strikeouts (13) and Monday's four walks continued that trend. One of them led to Washington's first run in the two-run top of the third. Cueto also walked two in the sixth but escaped a bases-loaded jam.

"He's figuring it out," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He's getting it and figuring out how to win without his best stuff. He's backing off, taking his time when he doesn't have his act together. And when he does have it together, he'll just keep pitching until the wheels fall off and then he'll put them back on. He's really matured a lot, big time."

The Reds scored four in the bottom of the second off Nationals starter J.D. Martin (1-5) to take a 4-0 lead. It started with a Gomes single to left field and two walks to load the bases. Drew Stubbs hit a two-run double to right field and Cueto's sharp two-run single that went through shallow-playing second baseman Cristian Guzman into right field.

"You walk a couple of guys in an inning, it's hard to get out of it, especially if you are not locating," Martin said.

Gomes started the sixth by hitting his 13th homer of the season to left field off Martin. Two batters later, Miguel Cairo added a 438-foot home run into the upper left-field bleachers to make it a 6-2 game.

Cairo was filling in at third base for Scott Rolen, who is out with a sore right hamstring.

"I have to do my job," said Cairo, who was 2-for-3 with two runs scored. "We have to be ready, the guys on the bench, whenever one of the big guys gets hurt or gets a day off."

It was Gomes who took Rolen's customary cleanup spot in the order. Gomes created another run when he beat out an infield hit to the hole at shortstop. That led to another run on Cairo's RBI single to center field.

If that wasn't enough, Gomes made a nice sliding catch at the left-field line on Nyjer Morgan's tailing fly ball.

"He comes to play every day," Baker said of Gomes. "That play he made out in left field that was an outstanding play, and Jonny's a very excitable man and he excites everybody else around him, the fans, me, you, guys on the team and everybody. It's great to have Jonny."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.