CINCINNATI -- The season has only just started, but Reds ace Johnny Cueto and his lineup have already been like two ships passing in the night. Once again on Friday vs. the Rays, Cueto delivered a solid seven-inning outing only to find an offense unable to support him.
Rays ace David Price kept the bats in check as the Reds were handed a 2-1 loss at Great American Ball Park.
Cueto gave up two earned runs and five hits over seven innings, with four walks and six strikeouts. Over 21 innings, he's allowed five earned runs for a 2.14 ERA, but he remains winless. Cincinnati has scored a total of one run when Cueto has been on the mound this season.
"That's something I can't control," Cueto said via translator Tomas Vera. "That's up to the other part of the team. I always say I have to do my job. I have to throw seven, eight innings. I have to do my job and they have to do their job."
For the third time this season, the Reds were on the wrong end of a one-run game, but they made it very interesting in the ninth. Trailing, 2-0, with Price working on a three-hit shutout, Joey Votto sent a 0-1 pitch the opposite way for a home run to left field. It was Votto's first homer of the season and it also was the final pitch of the night for Price, who gave way to closer Grant Balfour.
With two outs, Balfour walked the bases loaded before pinch-hitter Brayan Pena was called out on strikes by home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn on a ball that appeared to be outside the strike zone.
"We've matched up with good pitching. In the end, we keep being the team on the losing end of it," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "You just hate to waste good pitching."
Cueto labored in the early going with three walks and 46 pitches through two innings. In the first, he issued back-to-back one-out walks before Evan Longoria slashed an RBI single into left field to score Desmond Jennings. Cueto appeared frustrated with Reyburn's strike zone but tried to compose himself.
"We're human beings. Pitchers act like that," Cueto said. "We have a body language, and maybe he doesn't like it. You have to be careful you don't show it to the umpire, but you know what? That's the way it is. The umpire is the one who knows if it's a ball or strike."
It became a 2-0 Rays lead in the third when Matt Joyce led off by hitting a 1-1 pitch to right field for his second homer of the season.
Cueto got it together and gave up only two singles -- including one blooper -- and a walk the rest of the night, and he retired eight of his last nine batters to end at 119 pitches.
"At first, I didn't feel like I was ready," Cueto said. "I felt too slow, too down on myself. I don't want to say I was tired, but I was kind of tired. Then after that, everything clicked in and that was good."
Rays manager Joe Maddon came away impressed with Cueto's work.
"He pitches off the edges on purpose," Maddon said. "He definitely knows what he's doing. He does not want to throw the ball over the plate. He will not do it unless he has to, and he can do it whenever he wants. That's what I saw."
Price was even more impressive this time, as he gave up four hits over 8 1/3 innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts.
The Reds now find themselves having lost seven of their first 10 games.
"Unfortunately, we've wasted some good pitching here," Price said. "We got another great start from Johnny. It's just unfortunate we haven't been able to win those games. He's given us three chances to win, and we haven't won a single game."