Cueto hit hard in setback to Mets
Rookie righty gives up six runs, eight hits over 4 2/3 innings
NEW YORK -- Young Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto learned a lot the hard way about pitching in the Major Leagues when he took some relentless hard-hitting abuse from the Mets at Shea Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
If Cueto had been a boxer, he would have been flat on his back and counted out in the first round.
Reds manager Dusty Baker said he thought Cueto might have had the jitters pitching in New York for the first time. Cueto said his nerves had nothing to do with his getting throttled for eight hits, five of which were for extra bases, and six runs over just 4 2/3 innings in a game the Reds lost, 8-3, before a crowd of 49,264.
Cueto was down, 1-0, after facing just two batters and 3-0 after the Mets roped a single, two doubles and a triple in the first inning. By the time Cincinnati's offense finally recorded its second hit off winner Oliver Perez (3-3), New York had a 6-0 lead in the fifth.
"He was throwing 93 or 94 [mph], but he was throwing down the middle of the plate," Baker said of Cueto.
Baker said he thought that Cueto, a 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic, might have had family in New York and that the pitcher was hyped up to put on a good show.
"Some Latin players have family here and they want to perform well, and that was the first time he was pitching here in New York," Baker said.
Cueto said he has a brother living here, but that had nothing to do with why he struggled against the Mets.
"I was OK," Cueto, now 2-4 with a 5.91 ERA, said through an interpreter. "That's no reason to be nervous. I made a couple of bad pitches.''
Jose Reyes led off the Mets' first with a hard-hit line single to center and stole second. Luis Castillo followed with a triple to right-center that got by Ken Griffey Jr. and Ryan Freel as it scooted to the fence.
Carlos Beltran, who drove in eight runs in the series, delivered a one-out run-scoring double to left-center. Moises Alou continued with the theme, roping a double down the right-field line that scored Beltran.
New York struck three more times in the fifth. Castillo beat out a leadoff infield hit. One out later, Beltran hit a long two-run homer to right. Ryan Church followed with a solo blast over the center-field fence. The Mets hadn't hit back-to-back home runs this season until they unloaded against the Reds in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader, and then against Cueto.
"He got his composure back," said Baker, who was pleased at the way Cueto worked in the second, third and fourth innings before being hit again in the fifth.
"He just didn't have his location," the manager added. "When you come out of the bullpen with good stuff and all of a sudden, it's bam, bam, bam, bam ... every pitch he threw was a line drive. Even the outs were line drives.
"The first thing I was thinking was, 'Do they have his pitches?' Because they looked like they knew what was coming," Baker continued. "But again, when you throw the ball down the heart of the plate, you don't have to know what's coming. This game isn't designed to have the ball down the middle of the plate. And they have some guys over there who know what do when the ball is down the middle of the plate."
It wasn't the first time Cueto had been rocked. He gave up seven runs on eight hits in 1 2/3 innings at St. Louis on April 29.
The Reds, who lost two of three to the Mets, finally found their way home in the sixth. Griffey drew a leadoff walk. Edwin Encarnacion sent Griffey to third with a double to left. Adam Dunn hit a sacrifice fly to center. Jeff Keppinger, who finally struck out in the eighth, delivered his seventh straight hit, a triple to left-center, to get Cincinnati's second run home. Keppinger then scored on a wild pitch.
But the Mets had done enough damage to Cueto that the Reds were unable to recover. New York then went to work on Cincinnati's bullpen for two runs in the sixth.
And in the ninth, the Reds were embarrassed when David Ross batted out of order. He batted in Corey Patterson's spot and made an out. Mets manager Willie Randolph brought the mistake to the attention of the umpires. Patterson's spot in the order, where Ross had batted, was ruled an out. Ross got to bat again, this time in his own No. 9 spot, and singled.
"I made a mistake and batted out of order,'' Ross said, admitting that he owes Patterson a dinner because Patterson was charged with making an out without stepping to the plate. "I'm buying him dinner. That has already been determined."
Baker took the blame for the mistake.
"It was a bad day," Baker said as the Reds prepared to return to Cincinnati. "It started bad and ended worse."
Kit Stier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.