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08/11/2011 4:17 PM EDT
Healthy Cueto regains ERA lead, Reds beat Rockies
CINCINNATI 2, COLORADO 1

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Johnny Cueto looked and felt more like himself
Thursday.

Cueto and two relievers made a pair of first-inning runs stand
up and the Cincinnati Reds salvaged a split of their four-game
series against the Colorado Rockies with a 2-1 win.

Cueto, who blamed bad chicken wings for an upset stomach while
pitching a season-low 3 2-3 innings in his last start at Wrigley
Field, bounced back to throw three-hit ball for seven shutout
innings. He took over the NL ERA lead, lowering his mark from
2.06 to 1.94.

"I didn't have any wings today," Cueto said. "I felt strong. I
have been working hard to get better."

Cueto (8-5) struck out a season-high nine, including Carlos
Gonzalez with the bases loaded to end the fifth inning, walked
two and hit a batter. He missed the first month of the season
with soreness in his upper right arm, qualified for the ERA lead
with this outing.

The fifth-inning jam was the only trouble for Cueto. He got two
outs on six pitches before pitcher Jhoulys Chacin singled.
Dexter Fowler singled and Mark Ellis walked to bring Gonzalez to
the plate.

"Johnny was dealing," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He had an
easy inning going but he made a mistake to their pitcher, that
put him in trouble. It cost him another 15-20 pitches or he
could have gone farther."

In the past, those bumps upset Cueto more than the bad chicken
wings. But the maturing right-hander is getting better at
handling those situations.

"I was concentrating on not overthrowing to get myself out of
danger," said Cueto, who has become Cincinnati's ace.

Said Baker: "He's still learning. He's pitching well while he's
learning but he learned today that every batter counts,
preventing the lineup from turning over is important."

Aroldis Chapman allowed the first two Rockies to reach in the
eighth before getting Gonzalez to ground into a double play and
striking out Eliezer Alfonzo. Francisco Cordero allowed Seth
Smith's 12th home run of the season leading off the ninth, then
earned his 22nd save in 27 chances.

Chacin (9-9) was almost as effective for Colorado, tying his
season high with nine strikeouts while allowing six hits and two
runs in eight innings. He fell to 1-5 over his last 10 starts
despite finishing with a flourish, striking out the side in
eighth.

The Reds took a 2-0 lead with a two-out, four-hit burst in the
first against Chacin, who went into the game limiting opposing
batters to a league-low .208 batting average.

Joey Votto lined a double off the left-field wall and scored on
Jay Bruce's single up the middle. Bruce moved up on Ramon
Hernandez's single and took third on Drew Stubbs' infield single
to third baseman Chris Nelson, whose errant throw to first
allowed a run to score.

"(Cueto's) very good," Chacin said. "When you face him, you know
it's going to be a close game. What's more frustrating is
getting the first two outs and then allowing four hits and two
runs."

NOTES: Bruce went 6 for 14 in the series with two home runs and
six RBIs. ... A pitcher needs one inning for each of his team's
games to qualify for the ERA title. This was the Reds' 118th
game, and Cueto reached that threshold on Jonathan Herrera's
groundout in the fifth. It's the third time in Cueto's last
three starts that he's qualified for the lead, only to later
become a non-qualifier. ... Despite his eight-game hitting
streak, Colorado SS Troy Tulowitzki did not start. "He came to
me (Tuesday) and said his legs were starting to feel a little
heavy," manager Jim Tracy said. "We wanted to be proactive. If
not, you risk pushing the guy." Tulowitzki later pinch-hit. ...
Alfonzo batted higher than sixth for the first time this season
in nine starts. ... Reds RHP Bronson Arroyo will be looking for
his first win in eight starts since beating the Orioles at
Baltimore on June 25 when he starts Friday night at home against
San Diego. ... Colorado RHP Aaron Cook is 1-4 in his career
against the Cardinals going into his start Friday at St. Louis.
... Red 2B Brandon Phillips missed his second consecutive start
with a left elbow still sore and swollen from being hit by a
pitch on Tuesday. He refused to take a cortisone shot, he said
before the game. "If they have to stick me to play, it's just
more reason I shouldn't be playing," he said.

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