Jay Bruce gave Johnny Cueto plenty of support this time.
Bruce homered twice to drive in all four runs and Cueto, who missed two starts with a tight elbow, earned his first win in almost a month as the Cincinnati Reds beat the San Diego Padres 4-0 Sunday.
“I’m happy for him and the team to see Johnny back in form,” Bruce said. “Johnny played the stopper and the true ace. It felt good to get him the runs he needed.”
Cueto had been the victim of three blown saves this season. The Reds’ bullpen blew four-run leads in three of the last five games, all three resulting in losses.
Cueto (4-4) gave up four hits in seven innings, striking out nine and walking two. It was his first win since May 9.
“If he hadn’t come off the elbow injury, I wouldn’t have considered taking Johnny out of the game,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “We have increased his pitch count incrementally the last two starts. There will be no restrictions on him his next start.”
Cueto didn’t lobby to stay in the game.
“We needed this for the team,” he said. “My goal was to stop what happened the last few days and my teammates backed me up. Coming off the injury, he had to be conservative.”
The right-hander made his second start since missing two outings. Last year, he became the Reds’ first 20-game winner since 1988.
Relievers J.J. Hoover and Aroldis Chapman combined to retire the last 15 batters, helping the Reds avoid a sweep.
Cincinnati retooled its bullpen before the game. The Reds sent Jumbo Diaz to Triple A Louisville and selected the contract of Nate Adcock before the game.
Odrisamer Despaigne (3-4) lasted six innings. The Padres had won six straight over the Reds since May 2014
San Diego was shut out for the 10th time this season.
Bruce led off the second with his eighth homer of the season and first in 17 games.
The Reds needed only four pitches to open up a 4-0 lead in the sixth. Joey Votto singled and went to third on Todd Frazier’s double into the right-field corner on Despaigne’s next pitch.
One strike later, Bruce lofted a 343-foot fly ball that bounced off the roof over the visitors’ bullpen down the right-field line for his first multihomer game of the season and 16th of his career.
Even with the homers, Black was pleased with what he saw from Despaigne.
“He threw the ball fine,” Black said. “He was victimized by a big-time power hitter who hit balls at the top of the zone or that might have been balls.”
Padres: RHP Brandon Morrow might be one more rehab start away from returning to the Padres, Black said. Morrow, on the disabled list since May 5 with right shoulder inflammation, was scheduled to start on Sunday for Double-A San Antonio.
Reds: Devin Mesoraco, unable to catch because squatting aggravates his hip impingement, is expected to report to Triple-A Louisville on Monday for the next step in his conversion to left field – actual game experience.
Padres: After striking out a season-high eight while snapping his four-start losing streak in his last outing, RHP Ian Kennedy (3-5) pitches the opener of a four-game series in Atlanta on Monday.
Reds: After taking a no-hit bid two outs into the seventh inning of his last start at Philadelphia on June 3, RHP Mike Leake (2-4) starts the opener of a three-game home series against the Phillies on Monday.
GET OUT OF MY WAY
2B Brandon Phillips and 1B Votto bumped into each other as Votto caught Wil Venable’s popup, leading off the eighth. When Matt Kemp popped up in the ninth, Phillips waved his arms in Votto’s direction to make sure the first baseman stayed out of his way.
GREAT AMERICAN SLUGGER
Bruce now has 116 home runs in Great American Ball Park, second to Adam Dunn’s 126.