The Cincinnati Reds moved over the .500 mark (13-12) with a 6-1 win over the host Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday.
Johnny Cueto picked up the complete-game victory for the Reds and is now 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA on the season.
Any questions about whether Cueto was “truly an ace” have quickly been answered. His numbers this season are eye-popping, and this is after going 12-7 with a 3.64 ERA in 2010, and going 9-5 with a 2.31 ERA last season (an injury forced Cueto to miss a few starts in 2011).
Cueto, 26, certainly appears headed for his first All-Star game appearance this summer. Yes, it’s still early (this was his sixth start) but he’s been sharp as can be this season. He’s always been a good pitcher with a promising future, and it appears he’s reaching his prime. He’s a lot of fun to watch right now on the mound for Reds fans.
Chapman also on point
There is a crisis for Reds’ opponents this season. Aroldis Chapman, aka “The Cuban Missile,” has found his groove as the Reds’ left-handed set-up man out of the bullpen. Sean Marshall was expected to man that role, but was forced to be the closer after the season-ending injury to Ryan Madson.
Chapman’s future is still likely as a starter in my opinion, but unless there are injuries to current members of the Reds’ rotation, Chapman will likely stick in the ‘pen this season.
Chapman has been so dominant that he makes Cueto’s stats look pedestrian by comparison. Check out these Nintendo-numbers that the 24-year-old has compiled thus far in 2011: 13.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 23 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.68 WHIP.
Chapman is still a flamethrower – the hardest-thrower in all of Major League Baseball in fact – but he doesn’t seem concerned about setting MPH records every time he takes the mound now. He hasn’t been looking up at the scoreboard nearly as much to see how fast his latest pitch was. He seems to be only concerned about getting batters out … and that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Bruce continues to surge
Jay Bruce might be the streakiest hitter in Major League Baseball. Right now, he’s one a sizzling streak and is tearing up nearly every mistake a pitcher makes.
Bruce, the reigning NL Player of the Year, smashed his eighth home run of the season on Friday against the Pirates. He’s also batting .304 (OPS of .970) with 18 RBIs.
It’s also hard to remember at times that the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Bruce is only 25 years old. And not only has he developed into the threat at the plate that all Reds fans hoped, he’s always been an excellent defensive right fielder.
Need to get Latos going
I’m still confident Mat Latos will have a good season (and more-importantly a good career since the Reds have him under control through the 2015 season).
Latos, 24, turned in a forgettable first month with the Reds that saw him go 1-2 with a 5.97 ERA in five starts. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-hander has a good repertoire of pitches, but isn’t quite the power pitcher I expected. His fastball sits consistently at 92-93, which isn’t bad at all. However, I thought he was more of a 94-96 MPH guy. To be clear, Latos can reach 95-96 on the gun, but I’m talking about where his fastball is clocked consistently.
But as important as velocity is for a pitcher, command is paramount and it’s the latter category where Latos has been lacking this season. If he can shore up his command like I believe he will, he’ll be fine. But fans are quickly losing patience considering all the Reds gave up to the Padres to get him (first baseman Yonder Alonso, minor-league relief pitcher Brad Boxberger, minor-league catcher Yasmani Grandal and starting pitcher Edinson Volquez).