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May 16, 2014

What You Need to Know

Cueto Fries the Friars

by Morris Greenberg and Chris Mosch


The Thursday Takeaway
The Padres and Reds played two on Thursday, with the first matchup pitting Johnny Cueto and Ian Kennedy against each other in a matchup between baseball's ERA leader and its FRA leader.

Nick Bacarella mentioned in yesterday's WYNTK that Cueto entered Thursday as the first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela to start a season with eight starts of at least seven innings pitched while allowing two or fewer runs. That streak continued after Cueto tossed his second shutout of the season on Thursday, and he is now the first starting pitcher since 1914 to start a season with nine such starts.

The Cincinnati ace faced just two over the minimum and didn't allow a Padre to make it to second base until the ninth inning—when Will Venable advanced to second on a fielder's indifference. Cueto registered 15 swinging strikes—his second-highest total of the season—and finished with eight strikeouts against two walks.

Cueto's counterpart, Ian Kennedy, had one of his poorest outings of the season, as the San Diego right-hander served up 11 hits (which tied a season-worst) and failed to record a 1-2-3 inning. He managed to escape unscathed through the first four innings, but wasn't as fortunate when Brandon Phillips came to bat with two on in the fifth.

***

Kennedy didn't fool Phillips with the 2-1 changeup, and paid for leaving the offering over the heart of the plate. The Reds would tack on two more runs in the sixth inning, when Zack Cozart singled home Ryan Ludwick and Bryan Pena. Kennedy departed after six innings and 101 pitches, striking out four batters and issuing a single free pass.

With nine more scoreless frames, Cueto trimmed his league-leading ERA to 1.25. All but two of the runs Cueto has given up this season have come via the longball, and it's only a matter of time before his .160 BABIP and 99.5 percent strand rate fall back to earth. In the meantime, Cueto will try to extend his streak of seven-inning, two-run starts next week in Washington. —Chris Mosch

Quick Hits from Thursday
In game two of the San Diego-Cincinnati twin bill, Billy Hamilton created his fourth "Hamilrun" of the season, which Ben Lindbergh defined as manufacturing a run without recording a hit. After drawing a six-pitch walk from Tyson Ross to lead off the bottom of the first, Hamilton swiped second base on a first-pitch pitchout to Chris Heisey:

and took off for third base on the very next pitch.

After Heisey reached base on a four-pitch walk, Hamilton trotted home to score the first run of the nightcap on a Brandon Phillips groundout.

Behind a trio of home runs from Rene Rivera, Everth Cabrera, and Yonder Alonso, to back seven innings of one-run ball from Tyson Ross, the Padres were able to split the doubleheader by taking the finale, 6-1. Entering the game, Ross' slider had the eighth-best whiff/swing rate among pitchers who had thrown at least 100 sliders this season, and he increased that rate with 12 swing-and-misses against the Reds. —Chris Mosch

***

Mike Trout has achieved a lot since emerging on the baseball scene, but late Thursday night (and in the wee hours of the morning on the East Coast), the Angels' superstar checked one more item off his long list of accomplishments: a walk-off blast.

Grant Balfour entered the ninth inning with a 5-2 lead, but proceeded to walk the first two batters he faced, Hank Conger and Efren Navarro. The Angels' batting lineup turned back over, and Colin Cowgill followed with a groundball through the right side of the infield, plating Conger and cutting the lead to 5-3. Joe Maddon had seen enough from Balfour, who has now allowed 11 runs and walked 14 batters 15 1/3 innings this season.

Maddon brought in Brad Boxberger from the bullpen to face Trout, but the two-time MVP runner-up, tattooed the third pitch he saw—a 1-1 breaking ball—from Boxberger into the home bullpen to give the Angels the walk-off win.

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