The Right Medicine

Published 1:42 am Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CINCINNATI — Johnny Cueto was the antidote for the Cincinnati’s lack of offense.

Cueto pitched six innings around a rain delay and drove home two runs Monday night, leading the Reds to a 7-2 victory over the Washington Nationals in a matchup of teams that hadn’t been able to score lately.

Both teams were coming off 1-0 losses, but the futility went much deeper. The Nationals had been blanked in their last two games. The Reds had been shut out in three of their last five, all by 1-0 scores.

Email newsletter signup

This time, the runs came easily.

“Shutouts aren’t a big deal with this team,” said Jonny Gomes, who added a solo homer. “We’re real good at bouncing back. That’s a real good characteristic of this team. It does a good job of pushing the wall down.”

Even Cueto (9-2) got into it, hitting a two-run single that got things rolling. Gomes and Miguel Cairo added solo homers.

“Cueto knocked in a couple of runs. That’s unfortunate,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. “Right now, when you give up those runs, we’re not swinging the bats and it’s tough to come back from.”

The Nationals couldn’t get past one wild inning by J.D. Martin (1-5), who walked three in the second. Drew Stubbs had a two-run double, and Cueto followed with his first RBIs of the season.

“I didn’t feel I had much of anything today,” said Martin, who gave up six runs in 5 1-3 innings.

Washington has dropped five of six, a slide prompted by its nearly nonexistent offense. The Nationals are mired in last place in the NL East.

“There’s a lot of rumors swirling around about guys getting traded,” outfielder Willie Harris said.

“We can’t worry about that. We’ve got to worry about our opponent.”

A thunderstorm forced a 42-minute delay after the third inning. Neither starter had a problem immediately after the break.

Cueto gave another stingy performance, then sat back to see if the bullpen would waste it again. The bullpen has blown five leads for Cueto, the most for any pitcher in the majors.

Not this time. Three relievers gave up three walks, but held the Nationals without a hit the rest of the way. The Nationals finished with four hits.

In his last six starts, Cueto has allowed five earned runs for a 1.16 ERA.

“He’s figuring things out,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s figuring out how to win without his best stuff, and when he does have his best stuff, he’ll pitch until the wheels fall off and then figure out how to put them back on.”

The Nationals got two runs in the third on Nyjer Morgan’s sacrifice fly and Cristian Guzman’s single. They failed to take advantage of a bases-loaded chance in the sixth set up by an unusual play.

After Cueto walked two batters, Ivan Rodriguez came up with two outs and hit a grounder that deflected off the side of the mound and slightly changed course. Second base umpire Gary Cederstrom — stationed on the grass behind the mound — leaned to get out of the way of the redirected ball, but it hit his back and deflected past second baseman Brandon Phillips into the outfield.

Ryan Zimmerman came around to score from second, but was sent back to third, leaving the bases loaded. Under baseball’s rules, it’s a dead ball when the ball hits an umpire before an infielder has a chance to make a play. Each runner got one base. Harris then flied out.

NOTES: The Nationals optioned OF Justin Maxwell back to Triple-A Syracuse after the game, creating a spot so RHP Luis Atilano can rejoin the team and start on Tuesday. Atilano was sent to Syracuse over the All-Star break so he could pitch and keep sharp. … Reds 3B Scott Rolen got a cortisone shot in his right hamstring before the game. Rolen felt a burn in the muscle while tagging on a fly Friday night. The Reds will decide within a couple of days whether to put him on the 15-day DL. … Phillips made the most acrobatic play of the game, leaping high to get Guzman’s slicing liner in the sixth inning.