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3/16/2013 12:46 A.M. ET

Cueto stretches out to six innings against Rockies

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds ace Johnny Cueto was the first on his team to reach six innings this spring as the Reds fell to the Rockies, 5-1, Friday night at Goodyear Ballpark.

Cueto allowed three runs on five hits with no walks and five strikeouts. He was slated to go five innings but his pitch count allowed for a sixth.

"I feel good. I felt strong," Cueto said. "I worked on my breaking pitch [in the sixth]."

Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis pitched five scoreless innings and allowed four hits and three strikeouts. Francis, who has blanked his opponents in 18 of his 19 innings this spring, lowered his ERA to 1.96 this spring.

The Reds' only extra-base hit against Francis was a two-out double to center field by Neftali Soto in the first inning. Soto exited the game after the inning because of a mild quadriceps strain.

Colorado took a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Cueto. Dexter Fowler led off the game with a double to right-center field and scored from third base on Carlos Gonzalez's groundout to second base.

Cueto had retired a stretch of eight in a row until Michael Cuddyer hit a single on the ground into left field in the top of the fourth. Up next was Todd Helton, who sent a first pitch from Cueto over the fence in right-center field for a two-run homer, his first in the Cactus League this year.

In the seventh inning, Ben Paulsen kept the Rockies in command with a two-out, two-run homer against Armando Gallaraga.

The Reds did not reach the scoreboard until the eighth inning against right-hander Bobby Cassevah, when Derrick Robinson tripled to right field to score Bryson Smith.

Up next: The Reds will travel to two locations for a pair of Saturday split-squad games that begin at 4:05 p.m. ET. The battle for the fifth spot in the rotation will again be center stage in both games as Aroldis Chapman is scheduled to pitch four innings against the Giants in Scottsdale. At the same time, Mike Leake will be in Maryvale to work four innings against the Brewers with live coverage of both games on Gameday Audio.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.