Reds ace Johnny Cueto shut out the Padres in the first game of a doubleheader on Thursday in Cincinnati, allowing only three hits and two walks while striking out eight. The right-hander has arguably been baseball's best pitcher so far in 2014.
After all, it's hard to argue against the pitcher who leads the majors in innings pitched (72), strikeouts (76), ERA (1.25), WHIP (0.708), hits per nine innings (4.13), complete games (three) and shutouts (two, tied with two others).
Cueto has started nine games in 2014, and in each game has lasted at least seven innings and given up no more than two runs. Nobody in baseball had done that since Harry Krause of the Philadelphia A's in 1909, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
Cueto has been one of baseball's best pitchers in the last few years. Since the beginning of 2011, of the 112 pitchers to make at least 60 starts, Cueto's 161 ERA+ ranks second only to Dodgers ace and Cy Young Award collector Clayton Kershaw's 168 mark.
The caveat with Cueto has always been health, averaging just under 23 starts per year from 2011-13, including only 11 starts in 2013. But so far in 2014, Cueto has been an iron man for the Reds.
Thursday was Cueto's sixth straight start of at least eight innings, the longest by a Reds pitcher since Tom Browning from August 3-27, 1989. In all of baseball since 1997, the only streak longer than Cueto was a 10-start streak by Cliff Lee in 2010.
Cueto has allowed five hits in a start three times in 2014, but never more. He allowed nine runners to reach base on April 11, and eight runners to reach on April 5. In every other start, no more than six batters reached base safely.
Cueto's 76 strikeouts are the most ever by a Reds pitcher through nine starts. The Reds have been around since 1882, and have been playing in the National League since 1890.
His streak of nine starts of at least seven innings is the most by a Reds pitcher since Bucky Walters opened the 1944 campaign with 20 such starts.
Cueto has faced 197 batters with nobody on base this season, 40 more batters than any other pitcher in baseball.
At age 28, Cueto is making $10 million in the final season of a four-year contract. He has a 2015 team option for $10 million that is looking more and more likely to get exercised with each passing start. What a bargain.