Cincinnati Reds

Cueto's sick stuff handcuffs Houston

Joey Votto's two-run homer in the first inning was all the offense Johnny Cueto needed. It was Votto's 25th of the season.
Joey Votto's two-run homer in the first inning was all the offense Johnny Cueto needed. It was Votto's 25th of the season. AP

HOUSTON — If Johnny Cueto wasn't feeling well Saturday night it was certainly difficult to tell.

Cueto allowed four hits in eight scoreless innings and Joey Votto and Ramon Hernandez each homered to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-0 win over the Houston Astros.

Jordan Smith pitched a perfect ninth to complete the shutout.

Cueto has been on antibiotics for a sore throat, but said his illness didn't affect his play.

"I am always thinking about positive stuff," Cueto said in Spanish through an interpreter. "I know that I have to go out there every time and just try to do a good job for the team and pitch good."

Reds Manager Dusty Baker said the illness may not have been a bad thing for Cueto.

"He was actually more relaxed out there," Baker said. "I have seen that a number of times. A guy is a little underneath the weather, so he relaxes. They don't have any choice, and they don't overthrow."

The win moves the Reds ahead of St. Louis atop the NL Central standings after the Cardinals dropped their third straight on Saturday.

Votto hit a two-run home run in the first inning — his 25th of the season — and Hernandez, who also drove in a run in the third, added a solo shot in the second.

Chris Heisey added a run with his pinch-hit home run off Chris Sampson that made it 7-0 in the ninth inning. He leads the major leagues with four pinch-hit homers this season.

Houston starter Roy Oswalt (6-12), who has requested a trade, had one of his worst outings of the season. He allowed nine hits and six runs in five innings.

"It was so out of character because he's thrown the ball so well," Astros Manager Brad Mills said. "There was no reason to think that he wasn't going to come out and be the same guy that he has been. It was very surprising."

Oswalt was looking for his 144th career victory, which would have tied him with Joe Niekro for first place on the team's all-time win list. Instead he took another loss, which could be his last as an Astro with the July 31st trade deadline approaching.

Oswalt said the pressure of the trade deadline and trying to match the record didn't bother him on the mound.

"No," he said. "I've thrown enough starts not to worry about one."

Cueto (10-2), who struck out six, didn't allow a hit until a double by Angel Sanchez with no outs in the fourth inning.