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CIN@STL: Cueto goes eight strong, enduring tough loss

ST. LOUIS -- Some were wondering if bad blood might boil over between Johnny Cueto and Chris Carpenter during their matchup on Monday. That didn't happen, but the two pitchers gave the fans something much better.

Cueto and Carpenter carried dueling shutouts into the eighth inning. It took a tough RBI infield single in the bottom of the eighth by pinch-hitter Mark Hamilton to foil Cueto and the Reds, who felt the sting of a narrow 1-0 defeat to the Cardinals.

"That was as good as you're going to see. Both of them were dealing," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

To start the St. Louis eighth against Cueto, Colby Rasmus lined a single to right field. Down two strikes, Yadier Molina still managed to sacrifice Rasmus to second base. Cueto bobbled the bunt as it rolled towards the mound, but the speedy Rasmus likely would have reached second base anyway.

A Skip Schumaker flyout to deep center field moved Rasmus 90 feet. Pinch-hitting for Carpenter, Hamilton hit a bouncer down the third-base line. Scott Rolen made a spectacular stop on his knees and fired a perfect throw to first base. Hamilton barely reached safely, using a headfirst slide as Rasmus scored the game's lone run.

"I was playing off the line. It kind of squibbed over, and that was the only way I could think of making the play," Rolen said. "He beat it out. It's a base hit and RBI. I knew it was fair right away. I knew it was going to land past the bag. I was just trying to get over there and see what happens when I got there."

If Hamilton would have been out, Rolen would have had the play of the day in baseball. But Rolen couldn't have done it any better in his effort to prevent the run.

"That play Scott made may be the greatest play by a third baseman I've ever seen," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I have no idea how he got to that ball and threw the ball, I have no idea."

The fourth-place Reds fell to an even .500 record at 43-43, three games behind first-place St. Louis.

Cueto settled for a complete-game loss after he pitched eight innings and allowed the one run on six hits, with three walks and no strikeouts. Carpenter also finished with six hits allowed over eight innings, with one walk and three strikeouts. Fernando Salas worked a perfect top of the ninth, with two strikeouts for his 15th save.

"It doesn't bother me because it's part of the game," Cueto said through an interpreter of the hard-luck loss. "When I go there, I want to win. If that's the way God wants it, that's it."

It's the second time this season that Cueto threw a complete game and lost by one run. It also happened on May 29 in a 2-1 defeat in Atlanta. He has also missed wins twice this season on blown saves, including last Tuesday in his previous start -- at Tampa Bay against David Price.

Cueto has a 1.77 ERA through 11 starts but a 5-3 record.

"The key is that he's pitching," Baker said. "He faced a lot of No. 1s lately. He's matched up with every one of them. He's really maturing and coming along as a pitcher."

This was the first time Cueto pitched in St. Louis since last August's nasty bench-clearing melee between the two teams, where the pitcher delivered a kick to Jason LaRue's head. It caused a concussion that ended the LaRue's career. Carpenter, who was involved in the skirmish and is a close friend of LaRue, never forgot about the incident.

Except for Cueto being booed by 40,551 Cardinals fans, none of that played a part in Monday's double gem of pitching.

Cueto threw only 104 pitches in the game and had just 85 through seven innings. He also enjoyed a seven-pitch sixth inning and benefited from three double plays, a caught-stealing and some great defense.

In the St. Louis third, on Ryan Theriot's two-out single into right field, Schumaker tried to score from second base. Jay Bruce made an on-target throw to the plate to nail Schumaker for the third out and his sixth assist of the season.

It was the first time in 26 starts that Cueto did not strike out a batter.

"Now, the way I think is about getting late into the game, seven, eight innings into the game," Cueto said. "So what I do is try to end the innings as quick as possible. My mind is not set to strikeouts. If I look for strikeouts, then I throw more pitches and don't stay in the game longer."

Carpenter, coming off a 132-pitch complete game win against the Orioles, was helped in the fourth when Jon Jay robbed Bruce of extra bases when his drive to right field was snared at the fence with a leaping catch. Jay also made a nice running catch towards the gap to take a hit away from Edgar Renteria in the seventh with runners on first and second.

"We always have our hands full when Carp is out there," said Rolen, who notched career hit No. 2,000 with a first-inning single. "Cueto has been as good as anybody in the league. We definitely expected that out of both guys."

After the Jay catch on Renteria, Cueto was the next batter with two outs, but Baker had no intention of lifting his starter after only 71 pitches.

"We're trying to teach him to close out games, and he closed it out," Baker said. "I wasn't going to take him out in that situation because he was dealing." Comments