Created on Saturday, 16 August 2014 Written by PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
DENVER (AP) — Johnny Cueto took off his hat, tucked his glove inside it and cradled them both like a football in his left arm as he sauntered ever-so-slowly off the mound after each inning.
This was his little routine and it was working effectively for him.
Of course, so were his almost unhittable cutter and four-seam fastball.
Cueto threw eight stellar innings to become the first 15-game winner in the majors and Kris Negron had a career-high four hits, including a tiebreaking single in the ninth, as the Cincinnati Reds beat the Colorado Rockies 3-2 on Friday night.
Cincinnati's ace came through in a big way. Cueto (15-6) allowed two runs and six hits to help the Reds snap a three-game skid. He is 7-0 since a loss at San Diego on July 2.
"As a manager, it's very comfortable being able to put your stock into one guy," Reds skipper Bryan Price said. "You go all in with Johnny and you don't fear losing the game late."
Nolan Arenado was about the only Rockies hitter who was making good contact against Cueto. Arenado homered and had two deep flyouts. After watching Billy Hamilton catch his drive to center in the eighth, Arenado passed by Cueto and grinned at something the pitcher said.
"He was saying, 'You just missed that,'" Arenado recounted. "He's one of the best in the league. He's an animal. As the situation and innings got tighter, he got better."
Negron lined a two-out single up the middle off Adam Ottavino (0-4) to bring in Ramon Santiago with the go-ahead run.
Aroldis Chapman closed for his 26th save in 28 chances. Charlie Culberson drew a one-out walk and pinch-hitter Mike McKenry sent a shot down the line that first baseman Brayan Pena — who started the game at catcher — snared as he toppled over. Pena then touched first base with his glove to double up Culberson.
Cueto worked his way out of a jam in the sixth after giving up a tying RBI double to Corey Dickerson. With one out and the bases loaded, Cueto struck out Culberson with a 95 mph fastball and then fanned D.J. LeMahieu with the same pitch.
The hard-throwing righty splintered quite a few bats with his heavy pitches running in on the hands of hitters.
"His cutter is just filthy," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "There's a reason why he's been as successful as he has been."
The Rockies turned reliever Matt Belisle into an emergency starter when Franklin Morales was a late scratch after his wife went into labor. Belisle and five other relievers kept the game close until the ninth.
Belisle allowed one run and tossed a season-high 49 pitches in three innings. It was his first start since May 25, 2008, with the Reds.
"When you sign the contract, it doesn't tell you when you're going to pitch," Belisle said. "I looked at it as a great opportunity."
Negron picked quite a game to have his parents and grandmother fly in from California. He jokingly said he's going to have them take him to the same restaurant and then sit in the same seats Saturday.
Reds: 3B Todd Frazier was out of the starting lineup with a balky back, which he hurt the night after hitting a ball off the end of his bat. "Pain shot up the right side of my back," Frazier said. He said he thinks it's a muscle strain in his lower back. He's day to day.
Rockies: Weiss said it "sounds like things went well" with SS Troy Tulowitzki's hip surgery Friday in Vail. OF Carlos Gonzalez will have surgery on his left knee Monday.
Reds: RHP Dylan Axelrod is expected to be brought up from Triple-A Louisville on Saturday to fill in for injured Homer Bailey, who's headed to the disabled list with a strained right elbow. It will be Axelrod's first major league start since last September.
Rockies: RHP Jordan Lyles (6-1, 3.70 ERA) will make his third start since returning from the DL. He missed two months with a broken left hand.