Johnny Cueto pitches, Chris Heisey hits, the Cincinnati Reds win.
That’s the simple formula recently and it worked again Saturday when the Reds beat the New York Mets, 2-1, in Great American Ball Park.
After giving up a run and five hits in the first two innings, Cueto gave up no runs and one hit over the next five.
He left after pitching the top of the seventh, tied 1-1. And Heisey took care of making Cueto the winning pitcher.
Heisey, batting for Cueto, drilled the first pitch from Mets starter Dillon Gee into the left-field seats, making Cueto a 17-game winner.
Heisey helped make Cueto a 16-game winner in his previous start in Pittsburgh. On that day Heisey started and hit two home runs, the second one giving the Reds a 3-2 lead that stood up.
Heisey’s home run Saturday was his 10th career pinch-hit homer, his fourth this season. “Ten pinch-hit home runs? That’s a lot, guys,” said fellow outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
Asked about his penchant for pinch-hit home runs and pinch-hitting success, Heisey said, “I wish I had the answer to it. I’d take it into every start and hit a couple then, too.”
Well, that is what he did in Pittsburgh.
“I don’t know, I’m just up there hunting a fastball and today I got one where I wanted it and was able to put a good swing on it and hit a line-drive home run.”
And how about the Cueto-Heisey connection?
“The thing with Johnny is that he is such a great competitor,” said Heisey. “He got behind early, giving up that one run, because he wasn’t as sharp as he wanted to be early on. He finds a way to keep us in the ballgame every time, even when he doesn’t have his best stuff or command. He just competes. He is upset with himself when he is not pitching well. He just wants to win.”
Cueto gave up two hits in the first inning but escaped damage on a strikeout/throw-him-out double play.
He didn’t escape in the second when Travis d’Arnaud doubled and scored on Dilson Herrera’s single for a 1-0 Mets lead.
And that’s the way it stood until the sixth with Todd Frazier crushed a 418-foot home run, his 25th, to tie it.
Cueto retired 13 straight through two outs in the sixth. He walked Lucas Duda, d’Arnaud doubled and Curtis Granderson walked, filling the bases. But Cueto squirmed free by striking out Herrera.
And Heisey took it from there.
“He gave up five hits in the first two innings and then gave up one in the next five,” said manager Bryan Price of Cueto’s day. “What a competitor. He put it out there because they were on him early. But he quieted the storm and shut it down.”
Of Heisey, Price said, “He has done that (pinch-hitting success) since I’ve been here. I’m sure he’d like to have more starts in the outfield, but he has been unbelievable off the bench and it doesn’t matter if it’s right-handed or left-handed pitching.”
Price sent the right-handed Heisey up to bat against the right-handed Gee and the first pitch ended up in the seats.
“We had some left-handed hitters (available), but Heisey is simply our best pinch-hitter,” said Price. “He is the most consistent.”
The drama wasn’t over after Heisey’s homer. The bullpen still had to put a muzzle on the Mets and Aroldis Chapman encountered difficulty in the ninth.
With one out he gave up a single to Granderson and Eric Young Jr. pinch-ran. He immediately stole second base and Chapman walked Herrera.
Chapman totally ignored the runners and Young bolted for third, easily beating the throw, and was called safe. But the Reds video man, Rob Coughlin, thought he saw Young lift his foot off the base after his slide and third baseman Kristopher Negron held the tag.
Price asked for a replay and Young was called out. It became huge when Chapman walked Wilmer Flores. Without Young being called out, the bases would have been loaded with one out. Instead it was two on and two outs and Chapman ended it by striking out pinch-hitter Eric Campbell on a 103-mile-an-hour fastball.
“Rob Coughlin made the call,” said Price. “The phone rang. From the naked eye you couldn’t tell that Young’s foot came off the bag. Rob Coughlin immediately called. And give credit to Negron for keeping the tag on the base runner. That made that play.”