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Cueto turns in another outstanding performance

Reds' offensive outburst provides plenty of support for ace

PHOENIX -- The Reds had the kind of game Saturday vs. the D-backs that was on manager Bryan Price's wish list for quite a while. Price has longed for a time where the offense puts up a sustained attack, knocks out the starting pitcher and gets into the bullpen.

Cincinnati's smooth 5-0 victory checked all of those boxes with the added bonus of ace Johnny Cueto turning in another sensational performance. Cueto pitched 7 1/3 innings and allowed five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts to lower his ERA to 1.68, which is tied for best in the Majors.

Following six straight games where they couldn't score more than three runs and suffered five losses, the Reds -- tied for last in the Majors in runs scored entering the night -- have scored at least five runs on back-to-back nights. With 11 hits on the night, the top three of the order -- Billy Hamilton, Skip Schumaker and Brandon Phillips -- each had two hits and scored a combined five runs. Every other starting position player had at least one except for Donald Lutz.

"Even though we've had all the injuries we've talked about early in the year, this is still a lineup that I've had confidence in being able to go out there and score runs," Price said. "We still have a history of producing runs and being good hitters, getting on base and driving in runs. It was a little perplexing for the team to not score with more regularity. This looks more like the team we're capable of being."

Cincinnati has won three of its last four games and can go home with a series in hand and a winning 4-3 road trip with one more win on Sunday.

"It's crazy. That's why you take it a day at a time," said third baseman Todd Frazier, who was 1-for-4 with a RBI single. "You just understand that we are a good team. Keep fighting because once we're 100 percent healthy, it's going to be fun."

With a 1-6 record and 4.87 ERA entering, D-backs starter Brandon McCarthy's numbers lacked the gravitas of foes from earlier in the week like the Dodgers' Zack Greinke or Hyun-Jin Ryu. But whom the Reds were scoring runs against was far less important than the fact they were simply scoring.

Through the first three innings, McCarthy allowed one hit and faced the minimum nine before the Reds broke out in the top of the fourth and sent nine to the plate.

Hamilton and Schumaker started it with back-to-back singles before Phillips lined a RBI single into center field. With one out, Frazier lined another RBI single to center field before Brayan Pena's RBI double scored Phillips and made it a 3-0 game.

"When you get runners on, you've got to get them in," Frazier said. "We did just that. Instead of one, we got three. That's a big thing to put more pressure on the other team. It changes everything up. Getting ahead like that was big."

To begin the fifth, Hamilton bounced a bunt single in front of home plate that catcher Miguel Montero couldn't corral. Hamilton stole second base and scored easily on Schumaker's RBI single to right field. A Phillips RBI double to left field came before he was thrown out at third base trying for a triple.

The five-run lead made Cueto's job all that much easier.

"It makes you feel better," Cueto said via translator Tomas Vera. "That way I could come in and attack the hitters more aggressively."

Cueto didn't encounter much difficulty over the evening. He escaped with two routine groundouts after back-to-back one-out singles in the first inning. He didn't pay for a two-out double by Gerardo Parra in the third when he struck out Paul Goldschmidt on three pitches, including 94-mph fastball for strike three.

In the fifth, after a bunt single by Montero, Cueto got Martin Prado to hit into a 6-4-3 double play and retired the next 10 of 12 batters.

"Another excellent performance, certainly needed because we are trying to put some wins together," Price said of Cueto. "We've won some series but we haven't really peeled off a long winning streak, which would really help us right now. It was nice to see him go out there and pitch well and also get the victory."

Cueto had 96 pitches when he returned for the eighth and ran into his first real jam. He walked pinch-hitter Eric Chavez and hit the next batter, A.J. Pollock, on the hand with a fastball -- his 106th pitch. (Pollock was diagnosed with a fractured right hand.)

That brought Price to the mound to get Cueto in favor of lefty reliever Manny Parra, who got a slow grounder to shortstop from Parra for a single that loaded the bases with Goldschmidt. Righty reliever Jonathan Broxton took over and struck out Goldschmidt and got a popout from Montero to end the rally. Broxton has retired 16 straight batters since May 21 and hasn't allowed a run in his last eight appearances.

It was the Reds' sixth shutout win of the season and third on the road. They've won back-to-back games on the road for the first time since a three-game win streak at Pittsburgh April 22-24.

"There is something about playing good and being able to anticipate winning and performing at the level these guys know they're capable of playing at," Price said. "That's exciting to see. We've had a couple of really nice ballgames back-to-back. We had a nice game against [Clayton] Kershaw, which is three out of four really quality games. We just want to see it continue, have productive at-bats and give ourselves a chance to do some damage every game and pressure every starter."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
Read More: Cincinnati Reds, Johnny Cueto, Billy Hamilton, Brayan Pena, Brandon Phillips, Skip Schumaker