Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto is off to a historic start on the mound with two shutouts, three complete games and the best ERA in the majors.
"Those around Johnny Cueto on the Reds have long run out of superlatives to describe his performances after each start this season.
"Here's a suggestion for Thursday: Historic.
"In a 5-0 Reds win over the Padres in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader at Great American Ballpark, Cueto faced two batters over the minimum for a three-hit shutout while walking two and striking out eight. It was his third complete game.
"'That guy, he needs to start getting some national attention,' said Reds shortstop Zack Cozart, who had three hits, including a two-run single. 'I was watching TV the other day and they were still talking about (Zack) Greinke and (Clayton) Kershaw and (Jose) Fernandez. I'm like, 'What about Johnny C.?'
"For the first time this season, Cueto did not allow an extra-base hit. No Padres batters reached second base in the game until Will Venable did so in the ninth. After his two-out walk, Venable advanced on defensive indifference.
"On Cueto's 116th and final pitch of the game, he got Everth Cabrera to ground routinely back toward the mound to end the game.
"'I think there have been games where he's been sharper, but he just kept making pitches,' Reds manager Bryan Price said. 'I don't know what else I can say about Johnny.'
"Cueto now has six straight starts of eight innings or more. No one has done that in the big leagues since Cliff Lee ran off a streak of 10 in a row in 2010, and no Reds pitcher has achieved that since Tom Browning in 1989."
Cueto spoke about his historic start in a May 15 update from C. Trent Rosencrans of The Cincinnati Enquirer:
"I would say yes, because the numbers talk. My numbers are going to talk for me. Everybody else is going to worry about their numbers. Every time I go on the mound, I do my job. I have to do my job to get the best numbers."
Reds catcher Brayan Pena also marveled at Cueto's mindset, per Rosencrans.
"His mindset is so strong. It's fun to be behind home plate when he's pitching. Hopefully, our position players, they say the same thing. Every time he goes out there, he gives you everything. He's one of the best in the game right now."
ESPN's David Schoenfiled makes a case for Cueto being one of today's best pitchers.
"Cueto's motion from the windup, where he twists around with his front left leg actually facing second base at the back of the turn, resembles that of the Cuban great Luis Tiant, another short (listed at six feet), somewhat pudgy right-hander with an assortment of pitches that baffled and confused batters.
"Maybe the twist helps throw off batters or maybe it's just a little flair. Either way, it's a signature image for Cueto in this day or largely look-a-like mechanics.
"Cueto has been a good pitcher in the past, good enough to win 19 games and finish fourth in the 2012 Cy Young voting. This season, however, he's taken his game to a new level, as we saw on Thursday with a dominant three-hit shutout of the Padres, improving his season numbers to 4-2 with a 1.25 ERA through nine starts.
"Tiant loved his postgame cigars and Cueto definitely deserved one after this effort.
"With a little run support he could easily be 9-0 -- he's pitched at least seven innings each start and hasn't allowed more than two runs in a game. His two 'losses' were 2-1 and 1-0. He had another no-decision when he pitched eight scoreless innings.
"He's the best -- or at least the hottest -- pitcher in baseball right now. And he said so after the game."
The 28-year-old Cueto is in his seventh season with an all-time win-loss record of 68-50 through May 16 with 821 strikeouts and a 3.40 ERA in 1,027.2 innings pitched, per ESPN stats.