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Reds 3, Rockies 2: Johnny Cueto too much for Colorado offense despite solid bullpen performance

Good news: the Rockies' bullpen posted a 3.00 ERA on Friday. Bad news: they still lost.

Doug Pensinger

DENVER -- Matt Belisle and Nolan Arenado got the Rockies off on the right foot on Friday, but ultimately, Reds ace Johnny Cueto proved to be too strong in Cincinnati's 3-2 victory over Colorado at Coors Field.

Cueto allowed two runs on six hits in eight innings, striking out six batters to earn his 15th win of the season despite not having his best stuff. The Rockies had traffic on the basepaths in each of the first six frames before Cueto, the league leader in innings pitched, bore down and notched a couple of 1-2-3 innings in a key spot with the game tied.

The Rockies, who were left without a starting pitcher as a result of Franklin Morales' wife going into labor a few hours prior to the game, unexpectedly hung around despite relying solely on their much-maligned bullpen. Belisle, making his first start since May 25, 2008, tossed three innings of one-run ball, exceeding the expectations of his manager.

Walt Weiss stated before and after the game that three innings would be the best-case scenario for Belisle, and despite a bit of a hairy third inning, the 34-year-old right-hander accomplished just that.

With two outs and one run already in, Weiss visited the mound after Belisle walked Ryan Ludwick to put runners at the corners. Belisle had already hit his 45-pitch threshold that Weiss laid out before the game, but that wasn't going to stop him from continuing.

"[Weiss] said ‘Matty, I was hoping that was your last hitter,’" Belisle recalled.  "And I’m like, ‘let’s make this one the last hitter, and if not, don’t worry about it, I got this — I’ll get out of this inning."

"I didn’t want him to take that ball from me," Belisle added. "I wasn’t going to let him do that. He’s done it before, but on a day like that, you've just gotta go."

The crafty veteran came through by getting Brayan Pena to fly out softly to right field, keeping the game tied and giving the team a chance to win. Perhaps as a reward -- as well as an attempt to avoid using an already short bench -- Weiss allowed Belisle to bat in the bottom half of the inning. He grounded out in the third pitch he saw.

"I was ticked that I didn’t get the bat head out on Cueto," Belisle quipped. "I got jammed a little bit, but those are fun opportunities and challenges that I take seriously."

Nick Masset, Juan Nicasio, Rex Brothers and Adam Ottavino combined to hold the Reds to one run over the next five innings, but the Rockies were able to cross the plate only once against Cueto during that time. There were a couple of close calls off the bat of Arenado, who had already homered in the second, but the ball landed in the gloves of Cincinnati defenders at the warning track each time.

The Reds finally broke through with the go-ahead run in the ninth against Ottavino, who needed only one pitch to get the final out of the eighth. It was a good move for Weiss to choose Ottavino in favor of LaTroy Hawkins, who would have been the conventional choice, but it just didn't work out.

Ottavino allowed a pair of runners to reach base on a single and a walk before Reds second baseman Kris Negron stepped to the plate with two outs. Negron proceeded to line a 2-1 pitch back up the middle to plate Ramon Santiago, who began the inning with a base hit.

"We got in a good matchup situation but the kid got a good hit for them," Weiss said after the game. "I’ll take Otto in that situation every time, against a right-handed batter and trying to get that last out."

Ottavino entered the game allowing an sOPS+ of just 78 against right-handed batters.

The Rockies had a chance to tie the game in the ninth inning when Charlie Culberson drew a one-out walk against Reds closer Aroldis Chapman. Weiss elected to have Michael McKenry pinch hit for DJ LeMahieu and the decision nearly paid off. McKenry lined a 2-1 pitch down the first base line but Pena, who moved from catcher to first an inning earlier and was playing close to the bag as a result of attempting to hold the runner, snagged the ball out of the air and touched first, doubling off Culberson to end the game.

Source: FanGraphs

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