CINCINNATI (AP) – Finally healthy after a lost season, Johnny Cueto is dominating every time out.
Cueto gave up three hits over eight innings, including two solo homers, and singled home a run on Saturday night, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 6-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Reds have won two of the first three in the series, leaving Milwaukee with a six-game lead in the NL Central.
Cueto (3-2) gave up homers by Aramis Ramirez and Mark Reynolds and an infield single by Jean Segura. He walked one and struck out 10. The right-hander has allowed only three runs in his last 38 innings.
“He was unbelievable again,” catcher Brayan Pena said.
Cueto was on the disabled list three times last season, when he made only 11 starts. Everything is coming together for him so far in 2014.
“He’s taking his game to an even different level,” manager Bryan Price said.
Cueto is the first Red to throw at least seven innings in each of his first seven starts in a season since Bucky Walters in 1944. He’s the first Red to throw at least eight innings in four straight starts since Jose Rijo in 1990.
“I’ve said before: He doesn’t have the body of an Olympic athlete, but he plays like an Olympian-caliber athlete,” Price said.
One curiosity with Cueto: He has given up six homers, accounting for seven of the eight runs he has allowed this season. He gave up two homers in a game for the first time this season.
Cueto has already thrown 55 innings. With the injuries last season, he managed only 60 2-3.
“It’s really important to be throwing this many innings,” Cueto said, with assistant trainer Tomas Vera translating. “I thank God that I’m feeling really strong. I’ve been working for this.”
The Reds piled up the singles against Yovani Gallardo (2-1), who failed to produce a quality start for the first time this season. Cincinnati had nine singles in Gallardo’s six innings, including Cueto’s RBI hit in the sixth inning for a 4-2 lead.
“They put the ball on the ground,” Gallardo said. “There’s nothing I can do after that. It’s frustrating when you make a good pitch and something happens. Cueto was a fastball away and he threw the bat out and made contact.”
Ryan Ludwick singled home a run, and Pena drove in two more with a single in a three-run fourth inning. Todd Frazier doubled home a run as the Reds pulled away against the bullpen.
The game matched two of the NL’s stingiest pitchers. Cueto got the better of it, leaving his league-leading ERA at 1.31.
Reds leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton was out of the lineup for the second consecutive game because of sprained knuckles on his left hand.
The Brewers’ offense has struggled and been in flux for the past week because of slumps and injuries. It took a significant hit on Saturday when Ryan Braun went on the disabled list with a strained right oblique.
Braun had missed the last six games with the injury. He’s eligible to return on May 12. Outfielder Logan Schafer, who had been disabled by a strained right hamstring injury, was activated in Braun’s spot.
Ramirez and Segura, the shortstop, missed time in the past week because of injuries. Ramirez, bothered by a bad elbow, was in an 0-for-28 slump that matched the longest of his career when he led off the second inning with a homer.
The Reds broke a 12-inning scoreless streak by piling up singles in the fourth. They loaded the bases on hits by Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce, and Frazier was hit by a pitch. Ludwick singled home one run, and Pena drove in two more.
NOTES: Alfred Simon (4-1) faces Milwaukee’s Kyle Lohse (4-1) in the final game of the series on Sunday. … The Reds activated OF/INF Skip Schumaker before the game. Schumaker separated his left shoulder while diving for a ball in the outfield on March 21. OF Roger Bernadina was designated for assignment. … Closer Aroldis Chapman pitched one inning for Class A Dayton at Lake County on Saturday, throwing 16 pitches. He’s expected to continue his rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville and could be activated within a week. Chapman was hit on the forehead by a line drive on March 19 and had surgery to insert a plate.