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Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Regression monster bites Johnny Cueto

By David Schoenfield

Johnny Cueto's outing on Tuesday is a perfect example of what analysts mean when they suggest a player is due to regress to more normal outcomes.

Before Tuesday's game, opponents had been 2-for-27 against Cueto with runners in scoring position, a key reason Cueto's ERA stood at a Bob Gibson-like 1.25. He had allowed just 10 runs despite giving up seven home runs because he had stranded so many runners.

Against the Nationals on Tuesday night, Cueto allowed eight runs (six earned), and it looks like he got pounded. That wasn't actually the case. He gave up six hits in 5.1 innings, but they were all singles. He didn't walk a batter (although he did hit two). What he didn't do was strand baserunners.

In the second inning, the Nationals scored two unearned runs on an error, a bunt single (and throwing error) and a sacrifice fly.

Cueto did hurt himself during the Nationals' seven-run sixth inning with the two hit batters. Denard Span led off with a ground ball single and then Cueto hit Anthony Rendon on a 2-0 fastball. Jayson Werth hit a hard grounder past Brandon Phillips for an RBI single, but if it's a foot the other way maybe Phillips turns a double play. Tyler Moore hit a soft RBI single to right. Cueto hit Kevin Frandsen with a 1-2 cutter. Danny Espinosa hit another soft liner to right for a two-run single. Sean Marshall came on and gave up a blooper down the right-field line and a double in the gap. Really, the only ball hit hard in the inning was Werth's hit, which did come off a bad pitch, a 3-2 fastball down the middle.

More than anything, it just wasn't Cueto's night. The baseball gods had been on his side his first nine starts. They weren't there for his 10th.

As Reds manager Bryan Price said after the game, "It's just the law of averages caught up with us today."