"All I can promise right now is I'm going to keep going," the right-hander said through an interpreter, "because I want to win at least 20 games."
Cueto can take another step in that direction on Monday afternoon when the Reds open a three-game series against the Phillies at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati, which has a 9 1/2-game lead in the National League Central, is kicking off a nine-game homestand.
Cueto leads the NL with a 2.48 ERA and is tied for first in wins. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 19 of his 27 starts, including Tuesday, when he held the D-backs to two runs over seven innings. The 26-year-old has established himself as a contender in a crowded NL Cy Young Award field.
"Johnny is certainly in the running," Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Tuesday. "To me, he is the top dog. He has some more starts left. When the smoke clears, if he's pitching like he's pitching now, in my opinion he should [win the Cy Young]. More importantly, when he's winning, we're winning."
The Phillies split a four-game series with the Reds from Aug. 20-23 at Citizens Bank Park, part of a 27-20 run since the All-Star break. After a crushing walk-off loss to Atlanta on Sunday prevented a series sweep, Philadelphia sits eight games behind St. Louis for the NL's second Wild Card spot, trailing four other teams and tied with the Mets.
But there are other goals to pursue, as well. The Phillies are six games under .500, and a winning record is within their sights.
On Monday, Philadelphia will turn to rookie Tyler Cloyd, who made his Major League debut on Wednesday against the Mets. The 25-year-old right-hander gave up three runs on seven hits in six innings, with two walks and five strikeouts.
"[Cloyd] did good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said afterward. "He looked in control. He's gutty. He doesn't light the radar gun up, but [his] command was good. He definitely had good poise."
Phillies: Manuel expects Brown back soon
A sore left knee kept outfielder Domonic Brown out of the lineup on Sunday for the seventh time in eight games. But Manuel said the 25-year-old should return before the team's road trip ends on Wednesday.
"We're trying to get him ready so he can play," Manuel said. "We don't want him to play when he's hurt. We want to look at him. We want to see him. We're looking for a big corner guy in our outfield. We're looking for run producers."
Brown is hitting .253 with a .682 OPS and one home run in 29 games since making his season debut on July 31. He has gone 0-for-2 off the bench since his last start, which came on Tuesday.
The Phillies recalled right-hander Justin De Fratus and lefty Jake Diekman from Triple-A Lehigh Valley before Sunday's game, giving Manuel a couple of extra bullpen arms.
Reds: Votto could return to start homestand
First baseman Joey Votto has been on the disabled list since July 17 and hasn't played for Cincinnati since July 15, thanks to a torn medial meniscus in his left knee. His absence might come to an end on Monday.
Votto homered in a rehab game with Triple-A Louisville on Saturday, and had the day off on Sunday. Baker hopes he can put Votto in the lineup for the opener against the Phillies, but the three-time All-Star has the final say.
"We'll wait and see if he thinks he's ready," Baker said before Sunday's game. "We've got a spot for him."
Votto is hitting .342 with a 1.069 OPS and 14 home runs in 86 games, although the Reds are 32-15 without him in the lineup.
Cincinnati recalled catcher Devin Mesoraco from Louisville on Sunday, although Ryan Hanigan got the start behind the plate. Mesoraco has spent most of the season with the Reds, but was optioned to the Minors on Aug. 23.
The Phillies swept a four-game series from the Reds last August in Cincinnati and have won five straight there, including Game 3 of the 2010 NL Division Series.
Cueto threw 111 pitches while giving up two runs in five innings against the Phillies on Aug. 23 in Philadelphia. It was the first time since July 8 he hadn't completed six frames.