CINCINNATI -- It was an embarrassment of pitching riches on Thursday at Great American Ball Park.Johnny Cueto outdueled Jhoulys Chacin in a battle of right-handers. And when Cueto maxed out at 120 pitches after seven innings, Aroldis Chapman and Francisco Cordero finished off the game for the Reds, who defeated the Rockies, 2-1. Both starters were superb as the Reds came back to earn a split of the four-game series, with Cueto lowering his National League-leading ERA to 1.94. Cordero allowed a Seth Smith homer to open the ninth. He then settled down to record his 22nd save of the season and career save No. 312 to pass Tom Henke for undisputed possession of 17th place on the all-time list. "All things go as your starters go," said Reds manager Dusty Baker, whose club also picked up a seven-inning, one-run victory from Mike Leake on Wednesday night. "That was a great performance by Johnny. But the guys came in and did a great job. Chapman did a great job. Coco got his 312th save. And we had another one-run victory. Perhaps our turn is coming on those one-run victories." Cueto (8-5) pitched seven innings of scoreless, three-hit ball. He struck out a season-high nine, walked two and hit a batter. The Rockies threatened only once against Cueto, loading the bases with two out in the fifth. But Carlos Gonzalez whiffed to end it. The fifth proved, though, to be Cueto's undoing, as far as pitching deeper in the game. "He had an easy six-pitch inning going and hung a slider to the pitcher with two out and nobody on," Baker said, noting that Chacin's single at that point was the main culprit. "That led to a threat, and he had to strike out CarGo to end that inning. That cost him 15-16 pitches that could have taken him at least into the eighth." Cueto agreed that it was a learning experience. "I need to just try and make good pitches all the time," the Dominican-born Cueto said through an interpreter. "My confidence is high, because I've been working so hard and pitching so good. I'm just trying to do the best I can, so that this team can win some games." Chacin (9-9) is doing the same. He pitched a complete game, allowing six hits in eight innings, but only two after the Reds plated all the runs they needed in the first to take a 2-0 lead. Joey Votto doubled with two out and nobody on and came in to score on a Jay Bruce single. Ramon Hernandez singled, moving Bruce to second. Drew Stubbs topped a grounder to third, and when third baseman Chris Nelson threw wide of first, Bruce scampered home. The play was officially scored an infield hit for Stubbs and a Nelson throwing error. Chacin walked three and struck out nine. The Reds loaded the bases against him with two out in the seventh, but failed to capitalize when Votto lined out hard to right. "That was a tremendous pitching performance on both sides of the field by two young kids," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "They are not only two of the more dynamic young kids in the league right now, but God willing and health doesn't become an issue for either one of them, [they] will continue to be." The starters were so effective that at one junction of the game, the two contributed seven strikeouts in a row. Chacin, who tossed 111 pitches, didn't look like he lost anything, as he struck out the side swinging in the bottom of the eighth inning. "The whole game was a great pitching matchup," Gonzalez said. "It's tough, especially when two guys are pitching so well. Chacin pitched a great game, and it's really disappointing to see him get charged with a loss after striking out a lot of guys and pitching well the whole game."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.