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Cueto Stifles Pirates, Strikes Out 12 in 4-0 Shutout

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

In a rematch of the starters from last year's NL Wild Card game, the Reds were able to produce the opposite result, as Johnny Cueto completely negated the Pirates' offense in a 4-0 Cincinnati victory. Cueto took advantage of a generous strike zone from home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott, amassing a career-high 12 strikeouts on his way to a complete game shutout. The Pirates were able to manage only three hits against the Reds' hurler: A fourth-inning double by Andrew McCutchen and a pair of infield singles by Tony Sanchez and Jordy Mercer.

Bucs starter Francisco Liriano turned in a fairly strong start of his own, but some early struggles with his command put him into an early hole. He began the game by walking Billy Hamilton, who quickly stole second base (as is his wont), and then a pair of wild pitches on balls in the dirt allowed Hamilton to move the rest of the way around the base path and score the only run the Reds would end up needing. Liriano subsequently settled down, pitching effectively apart from a two-run homer by Joey Votto in the seventh inning, but the damage had already been done. The Reds' final run came against Stolmy Pimentel in the 8th, after Travis Snider misjudged a soft line drive in right-center. It carried over his head and went in the books as a double for Brayan Pena, bringing home Chris Heisey.

Since the game was a rematch, it seems appropriate that it included two replay reviews. Both went the Pirates' way, and both prominently featured Jordy Mercer - the former, in the fourth inning, reversed the on-field call and awarded him a single, while the latter, in the eighth, confirmed the umpire's ruling on a play at the plate. With Roger Bernadina on third base, Mercer fielded a ground ball from the bat of Zack Cozart and delivered a quick, accurate throw home, allowing Tony Sanchez to seal off the plate with his left shin guard and tag Bernadina out.

The game was also notable for its inclusion of not one but two examples of the rarely-called batter's interference, both on bunt attempts by Cueto. His first time at the plate, he drew the ump's ire by stepping out of the batter's box on his bunt attempt, and in his second, he went too far toward the opposite extreme, standing like a statue and obstructing the path of Tony Sanchez on a bunt attempt down the third base line. He should probably have just swung away, as he was able to collect a single to center on his third trip to the plate.

The Pirates did turn in a few nice defensive plays on the afternoon. McCutchen made a slick sliding catch on a sinking line drive to left-center to rob Brandon Phillips of a hit in the sixth, and Jose Tabata gave up his body to take extra bases away from Pena while running down a liner in left, striking the wall at full speed. A visibly woozy Tabata apparently sustained a concussion on the play, but he hung onto the ball and earned polite applause from the visiting crowd as the training staff removed him from the field. Concussions are no joke, so one can only hope that he can make a quick recovery from the collision.

The loss drops the Pirates below .500 for the first time this year. They'll try to bounce back against the Brewers at 7:05 tomorrow, in the first game of an eight day homestand.