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04/13/08 5:58 PM ET

Homers hurt Cueto in finale vs. Bucs

Rookie starter suffers first Major League loss

PITTSBURGH -- In his first chance to be a stopper, even Johnny Cueto couldn't prevent the lost weekend from swallowing the Reds.

In a three-game series sweep that was capped by a 9-1 loss on Sunday, the Reds were chewed up by the Pirates and mercifully spit out west to Chicago. That's where they'll start a three-game series vs. the Cubs on Tuesday after a sorely needed off-day on Monday.

"It was a bad weekend," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Two close games, and today we got blown out. We didn't play very well at all in any department."

"The only thing I would say we could take out of this weekend is to try and forget it until the next time we come back here," catcher Paul Bako said.

Cueto (1-1) took his first loss after he allowed five earned runs and five hits over six innings with one walk and six strikeouts. He also allowed two home runs.

Rainy conditions at PNC Park delayed the game's start by nine minutes, but word didn't reach the bullpens where Cueto and Pirates starter Tom Gorzelanny warmed up. A couple of times, grounds crew workers put tarps over the mound and home plate and took them off.

"There was some miscommunication there," Baker said. "They told us the game would start on time. Then it wasn't on time. Then it was on time. [Gorzelanny] didn't come out until 1:29 [p.m. ET]. I knew we wouldn't start on time when he had only six minutes to get loose. Johnny sat back down and got back up. That wasn't the whole ballgame or the reason why we lost. We just got our butts kicked today."

In the second inning, Cueto gave up Ryan Doumit's leadoff home run to right-center field for a 1-0 Pirates lead.

Cueto's two-out free pass to Nate McLouth in the third inning was the first of the 22-year-old's Major League career. It came after sixteen innings and 22 strikeouts.

Naturally, Cueto's first walk was immediately followed by the first time he was haunted by a walk. Next batter Luis Rivas lined an RBI double into the left-field corner that scored McLouth.

"He made a couple of pitches he could have executed a little bit better," Bako said. "It wasn't a shutout going into the seventh, but I thought he threw the ball pretty good. It just didn't work out today."

It was a decent outing, but the game got away from Cueto in the sixth. McLouth hit a leadoff double and later scored on a sacrifice fly. With two outs, Cueto hung a 1-0 slider to Xavier Nady. The ball was launched into the left-field seats for a two-run homer.

"Probably the worst one he threw all day, and Nady is a good hitter," Bako said. "That was really the one pitch we'd ask back. It's not necessarily that we wouldn't throw a slider, but maybe if he had executed it a little better, we would have been fine."

"There were a couple of pitches that I hung," Cueto said through interpreter Juan Castro. "I made a mistake but felt pretty good."

Four more runs scored on reliever Todd Coffey in the seventh, including a three-run homer by Jason Bay. Even without the late Pirates runs, Cincinnati would have had enough trouble bouncing back had the deficit stayed two runs.

The Reds were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners. In the seventh against Gorzelanny (1-1), Bako hit a one-out triple and scored on Ryan Freel's RBI single. For the fourth time in the series, Edwin Encarnacion batted with the bases loaded and came up empty when he grounded out to second base in the sixth.

Friday's loss was by a 1-0 score, and Saturday's was a 4-3 defeat, so the series was highly winnable. Over the three days, the Reds were 6-for-35 (.171) with runners in scoring position and stranded 32 runners on base. They did not hit any home runs.


After the Reds started the 10-day, nine-game road trip winning two of three at Milwaukee, being swept by the Pirates was a big letdown. Pittsburgh had lost three in a row before Friday.

"We didn't play very good defensively," Baker said. "We didn't pick up base runners again. It was just a bad series. It's totally disheartening by the fact we were playing good before we came in here and they were playing poorly. It just shows how quickly this game can turn around on you, and now we have to turn back around when we go to Chicago."

Before the game, Baker was asked if there was any antidote for his team's run production woes. There wasn't.

"You can't hit for them, you can't find holes for them," Baker replied. "If you could, I'd wish a hit every time they're up there. It's like springtime -- hot one day and cold the next day. Everyone wants an explanation. Sometimes there is no explanation. The next day you can score eight runs. We have to fight through it and keep working. Guys are working. They're going to the cage every day. They're working tirelessly."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.