Created on Friday, 16 May 2014 Written by JOE KAY, AP Baseball Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — Two shutouts. Three complete games. Best ERA in the majors. A start to the season unlike any other in more than 100 years.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto fields a ground ball hit by San Diego Padres' Everth Cabrera for the final out in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Cincinnati. Cueto pitched a complete game shutout, allowing only three hits. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Johnny Cueto is quickly compiling some really loud numbers.
Cueto pitched a three-hitter for his second shutout of the season, and Brandon Phillips hit a three-run homer and a double, leading the Cincinnati Reds over the San Diego Padres 5-0 on Thursday in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.
The Reds couldn't do anything on offense in the second game, managing only three hits while losing 6-1 for a split.
Cueto (4-2) lowered the majors' best ERA to 1.25 with his third complete game in nine starts.
Is he the best starter in the majors right now?
"I would say yes because the numbers talk and my numbers are going to talk for me," Cueto said, with assistant trainer Tomas Vera interpreting.
Here's some numbers to consider: Cueto is the first major league pitcher to go at least seven innings and allow two or fewer runs in each of his first nine starts since the Philadelphia Athletics' Harry Krause in 1909, according to information provided the Reds by the Elias Sports Bureau.
Also, he is the first Red to go at least seven innings in each of his first nine starts since Bucky Walters in 1944.
"He needs to start getting some national attention," shortstop Zack Cozart said. "I was watching TV the other night, and they were talking about (Zack) Greinke and (Clayton) Kershaw and I'm like, 'What about Johnny C?'"
The most impressive part to the Reds is how he won't ease up even with a big lead like the one on Thursday.
"He's one of those guys that it doesn't matter (what's on) the scoreboard, he just goes out there and continues to attack, continues to follow his game plan," catcher Brayan Pena said. "That's why he is who he is. That's why he's been pitching the way he is."
San Diego came into the game last in the NL in batting average (.222) and runs (118). The Padres were blanked for the seventh time, the most in the majors. Cueto fanned eight, walked two and threw 116 pitches.
Phillips homered off Ian Kennedy (2-5) and Cozart singled home two runs, part of a three-hit game for the shortstop. Cozart snapped an 0-for-15 streak with runners in scoring position when he singled home two runs in the sixth.
The Reds couldn't get the sweep. Tyson Ross (5-3) allowed three hits in seven innings of the second game, and the Padres hit a season-high three homers. Left-hander Jeff Francis (0-1), called up to start the game, allowed three runs in five innings.
"Right now, we're trying to get a handful of guys going at the same time," manager Bryan Price said. "We know what this team is and what we can do when we're healthy.
"We haven't found the groove. We haven't had that hot streak."
San Diego's Seth Smith singled, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games. Cincinnati's Todd Frazier singled in both games and extended his career-best streak to 14 games, but was frustrated that the Reds couldn't do more to get the sweep.
"We have no answers right now," Frazier said. "It's frustrating. We know we should've won the series. We're better than this. It's just frustrating."
NOTES: The Padres acquired OF Jake Goebbert in a deal that sent utility player Kyle Blanks to Oakland. The Padres also will get another player to be determined or cash in the deal. Goebbert batted .257 with six homers and 25 RBIs for Triple-A Sacramento this season. He was assigned to Triple-A El Paso. Blanks played in five games with the Padres this season, going 2 for 10. ... The Reds optioned right-handed reliever Nick Christiani to Louisville before the first game, then added him as the 26th man for the second game. The Padres added reliever Kevin Quackenbush as their extra player for the second game. ... The Reds moved right-handed starter Mat Latos to the 60-day DL. Latos is expected back from knee and forearm problems in early June.