Johnny Cueto got the support that he was looking for last October as he pitched the Reds to a 4-0 complete game win.
Cueto struck out a career-high 12 while crafting his third complete-game shutout and seventh career complete game.
Cueto and Francisco Liriano, who are amigos from the Dominican, hooked up for a rematch of the Wild Card game between the Reds and Pirates on October 1.
The Pirates won 6-2 as Liriano pitched seven innings, allowing one run. Cueto, who had just returned from an injury that plagued him all season, lasted just 3 1/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned).
The Reds scored in the first without a hit.
Billy Hamilton walked and stole second on a pitch that was in the dirt and bounced away from catcher Tony Sanchez. Hamilton raced to third but the ball went into the Pirates dugout. Hamilton was required to go back to second. He didn't stay long. As Joey Votto was being walked, Liriano threw the first of two wild pitches. The second during Brandon Phillips at bat allowed the Reds to score the lone run of the game through six innings.
The Pirates got nothing off Cueto.
It was Cueto's game no matter what.
"He was going to go out there either way, whether we added on runs or not," Price said. "Welcome back Johnny Cueto."
"I felt really strong and confident," Cueto said through interpreter Tomas Vera. "I believe that Brian know us because he was our pitching coach. He trusts us."
Tony Sanchez reached on an infield hit in the third after six straight batters were retired. Andrew McCutchen doubled with one out in the fourth. Jordy Mercer reached on an infield hit after initially being ruled out by firstbase umpire Gerry Davis. Phillips fielded a ball in the hole between him and Votto. Votto had to rush to get back to first and missed it, replay cameras revealed.
Cueto, who started the game with an 0-2 record in spite of a 2.14 ERA, finally got the elusive run support. He had to jump start the rally himself. His teammates scored a total of four runs in his three starts. Cueto singled one out into the seventh. Hamilton forced him at second with a slow roller to short. Votto unloaded his fourth home run of the season to give Cueto the luxury of a three-run lead.
Cueto's single ended a bit of personal frustration. He was called out when he made contact with the ball in fair territory outside the batter's box in the second inning. He was called out trying to sacrifice Zack Cozart to secondbase. This time he stayed in the box and interfered with Sanchez's effort to field the bunt.
The Reds added a fourth run on Brayan Pena's double that scored Chris Heisey, who was 1-for-3, was hit by a pitch, had a stolen base and a run scored.
It was the Reds' first series win of the year.
Cueto and Liriano have been friends since both came to the major leagues. They come from different towns in the Dominican. Liriano is from Santo Domingo. Cueto is from San Pedro.
"When he got to the Pirates we started to be more friends," Cueto said.