Luckily for him, the offense seems to be coming around.
Cincinnati hopes to finish an 11-game trip with a third straight win and head into the break on a positive note Sunday against the San Diego Padres .
Cueto (9-5, 2.35 ERA) has lost his last two starts, mainly due to the one run of combined support he received. He gave up two earned runs over six innings of a 5-0 loss at San Francisco on June 28, then allowed three runs in seven innings of Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Dodgers.
"That's life. I did my job," Cueto said. "I didn't have the help I want, but that's the way it goes."
Cueto's start Sunday was referenced as the reason former St. Louis manager Tony La Russa excluded the right-hander from the NL All-Star team, as Cueto would be ineligible to pitch in Tuesday's Midsummer Classic.
The right-hander and manager Dusty Baker feel he was snubbed, though Baker did not adjust his rotation to accommodate Cueto's possible All-Star game selection.
Cueto is 0-2 with a 7.41 ERA in three career starts versus the Padres, and he'll look to improve those numbers while guiding the Reds (46-38) to 6-5 record on the trip after Saturday's 6-5 victory.
The Padres (34-52), meanwhile, have dropped two straight after capping their season-high six-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory in Thursday's series opener.
Chris Denorfia homered and Logan Forsythe went 3 for 4 with two RBIs in Saturday's defeat for San Diego, which is hitting an NL-worst .234 and won't have a position player representing it at the All-Star game.
Reds All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth, reaching 102 mph on his final pitch."We just couldn't that one extra-base knock to inch us closer," Padres manager Bud Black said.
San Diego will send the struggling Jason Marquis to the hill seeking to get back on track.
Marquis (3-8, 5.82), one of 13 different starters the Padres have used this season, is 0-3 with a 4.44 ERA over his last four starts, giving up four runs in 6 1-3 innings of San Diego's 8-6 win over Arizona on Wednesday.
He has lost eight of his past nine starts.
The veteran right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.25 ERA in his last four starts versus the Reds, though he hasn't faced them since 2009.
|June 30, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Left game - left knee inflammation|
|June 28, 2012||Brandon Phillips||Day-to-Day||Head|
|June 12, 2012||Zack Cozart||Day-to-Day||Illness|
|June 06, 2012||Drew Stubbs||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|June 06, 2012||Drew Stubbs||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|May 12, 2012||Scott Rolen||15-Day DL||Strained left shoulder|
|San Diego Padres|
|July 04, 2012||Andrew Cashner||15-Day DL||Strained muscle in right side|
|June 21, 2012||Anthony Bass||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 10, 2012||Cameron Maybin||Day-to-Day||Left game - Sprained neck|
|June 04, 2012||Will Venable||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
|June 04, 2012||Eric Stults||15-Day DL||Strained left latissimus dorsi muscle|
|May 31, 2012||Andy Parrino||15-Day DL||Sore right hand|
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- This is exactly the way the Cincinnati Reds wanted to play.
After struggling for much of their longest road trip of the season, the Reds erupted to win the final three games of the swing heading into the All-Star break.
All-Star Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick hit consecutive home runs, leading Johnny Cueto and the Reds past the San Diego Padres 4-2 Sunday.
The win put the Reds one game behind Pittsburgh for the NL Central lead.
"We needed it big time," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We needed it to keep up to where we were."
The Reds took over the division lead in late May. But when they dropped four of seven to start this 11-game road trip, Pittsburgh took over first place. The Pirates won six of seven going into the break.
Bruce and Ludwick connected two pitches apart in the fourth inning to give Cincinnati a 3-0 lead.
The Reds hit seven home runs in winning the final three of the four-game series. Cincinnati finished 6-5 on its trip.
"We really needed these games after the LA series where we lost two of three," Ludwick said.
Said Baker: "Everybody has been running on fumes. I asked them to play through the break."
Ludwick played for San Diego for about one full season from the time he was traded by St. Louis during the 2010 season until the Padres dealt him to Pittsburgh at the trading deadline last year.
He had little success hitting at pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
"This is a new year," Ludwick said. "I feel like I'm hitting the ball a little bit differently. I think everyone knows that I kind of got pulled down a bit when I was here. I'm hitting the ball better now."
Cueto (10-5), who felt snubbed when he was not picked for the NL All-Star team, looked solid until he ran into trouble in the sixth inning.
Cueto gave up two runs on seven hits in 5 2-3 innings and was pulled after issuing a bases-loaded walk. The right-hander struck out five, walked two, and hit two batters.
"The inning before my legs were tired - heavy legs," Cueto said through an interpreter.
Cueto had reached base in the fifth on a fielder's choice and went to third on a single.
All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman pitched a perfect ninth for his 11th save in 15 chances.
Brandon Phillips led off the Reds fourth with a single and Bruce connected against Jason Marquis (1-5) for his 18th home run. Ludwick followed with his 12th home run, a shot into the second deck in left field.
The Reds came close to another home in the fifth run when Joey Votto , the NL All-Star starting first baseman, hit a deep drive into left-center field. Center fielder Cameron Maybin took a running leap and snared the ball right at the top of the wall just as he crashed into the padding.
"I was just positioned in the right spot," Maybin said. "I got a good jump and saw where the wall was."
The Padres went into the break at 34-53.
"It's been kind of an up-and-down first half," Maybin said. "We just have to continue to compete, continue to grind."
Trailing 3-1, San Diego loaded the bases in the sixth with two outs on three singles. Pinch hitter Mark Kotsay fouled off three straight pitches with a full count before he drew a walk from Cueto.
"He was too high in the trouble count," Baker said. "When he walked Kotsay, that was enough."
Reliever Sam LeCure came in and retired Chris Denorfia on a fly ball.
Zack Cozart doubled and scored on Phillips' single in the seventh. It was Cozart's 21st double, the most by a rookie shortstop prior to the All-Star break, breaking the mark set by Boston's Nomar Garciaparra in 1997.
Marquis allowed three runs on seven hits in five innings. The righty struck out five and did not walk a batter while making consecutive starts on three days' rest for the fifth time in his career.
Marquis is 1-9 in his last 11 starts.
NOTES: After scoring one run in each of three consecutive defeats, the Reds scored 16 runs in the last three games at San Diego. ... The Padres have lost only one of their last five series. ... Reds 3B Scott Rolen was in the starting lineup for the first time since back spasms forced him out in the first inning last Sunday in San Francisco. He went 0 for 4 and struck out three times, dropping his batting average to .178.