Any way you slice it, Cincinnati Reds right hander Johnny Cueto is a pitching stud. As the fourth-best hurler in the National League, the 23-year-old regularly flings 98-mph heaters and has won seven of his last 10 starts, amassing a laudable 2.48 ERA thus far in the 2009 season.
Intimidating, que no? Not to Arizona Diamondbacks starter Jon Garland, who manned up and went mano-a-mano with his Dominican Republic-born opponent during last night's contest at the Great American Ball Park in the Nati. It essentially amounted to a game of chicken. Who blinked first? Unfortunately, it was Garland, who allowed the Reds to score after six good innings, causing the D-Backs to fall in a 1-0 shutout.
Prior to that fatal run (which came after Chris Dickerson singled and got driven in by a Joey Votto RBI base hit), Garland was efficient, economical, and effective from the mound. His overall pitch count for the outing ended up in the low 70s, and he dished out plenty of his signature sliders and cutters, which left a number of Nati sluggers swinging at air. Garland scattered nine hits before he was sent to the showers at the top of the seventh.
The only other scoring opportunity for the Reds went down in the third, when Danny Richar had dreams of scoring from first base after Dickerson plunked a double deep into right field. Justin Upton's ace throw to the plate (via an assist from cut-off man Felipe Lopez) made it into Miguel Montero's glove just in time, however.
If only J-Up -- or any of the other D-Backs players, for that matter -- could've been equally as hot with his batting attempts, as Garland got a chance to sing the same "Hard Luck" blues song that Dan Haren's been crooning for most of the year. You know, that number about how his teammates did him wrong with no run support. Arizona only managed a paltry pair of hits. It wasn't for a lack of chances, though, as Cueto walked the lead-off batters in the first two frames (Montero and Gerardo Parra). Lopez also produced a single in the third, advancing to second on a bunt by Stephen Drew, only to see the next two batters go down swinging. Cincy's hurler was definitely in the mood for strikeouts, serving up eight Ks overall.
It's also worth noting that the D-Backs have wasted another golden opportunity in the passing of the Manny Ramirez suspension, as the embattled L.A. Dodgers slugger will be back from his 50-game vacay on Friday. With yesterday's loss, the Snakes dropped to 31-47, 18 and a half games out of first place in the NL West. Expect that Grand Canyon-size gap to widen significantly with the return of Man-Ram.
The D-Backs and Reds play their series rubber match this morning at 9:35 Arizona time when southpaw Doug Davis (3-8, 3.28) goes against Cincy's Aaron Harang (5-8, 3.95). Grab a bagel and switch over to Fox Sports Arizona for TV coverage, or hit up KTAR-AM 620 on your radio dial for Greg Schulte's call. More info: www.dbacks.com.