Even if the Pittsburgh Pirates can't imagine him pitching much better.
Cueto pitched a one-hitter for his first major-league complete game, allowing only a third-inning single that went off shortstop Janish's glove, and the Reds beat the Pirates 9-0 on Tuesday night for their fourth consecutive victory.
"He completely dominated the game," Reds first baseman Joey Votto said. "It was his game, hands down."
The Pirates' only hit was by Ronny Cedeno -- and it nearly wasn't one. Janish deflected Cedeno's one-out grounder into left field, barely missing making the play. Cedeno was the Pirates' only baserunner, also reaching when he was hit in the left wrist by a Cueto fastball in the sixth.
Two days after Dallas Braden of Oakland threw a perfect game against Tampa Bay, Cedeno didn't want to see all zeros as the Pirates' linescore.
"I'm so glad they didn't throw a no-hitter, you know what I mean?" he said. "I don't want to be selfish, but at least we put one hit up there."
As effortlessly as Cueto (2-1) was throwing his 95 mph fastball, Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez almost seemed surprised it wasn't a no-hitter.
"He's always got his stuff," Hernandez said. "He's been working at trying to get ahead of the hitters and not get too excited, concentrate a little more. He has a good idea of where he wants to put the baseball."
Cueto had lasted as long as eight innings only once in his previous 67 major league starts, a 3-2 victory at Pittsburgh on May 3, 2009. The right-hander, who has 22 career victories, is 7-2 against the Pirates in 10 starts, winning his past five.
The Reds hadn't had a complete game one-hitter since John Smiley beat the Cardinals 6-0 in the second game of a doubleheader on Sept. 22, 1996.
"I was thinking about it [the near no-hitter] all the time, especially with it being only one hit, especially a ground ball like that," Cueto said, using Hernandez as a translator. "I was thinking if he didn't get that hit it would be a different game and you try and maybe go for it."
Pittsburgh had nothing else close to a hit as Cueto faced only one batter more than the minimum because Cedeno was thrown out attempting to steal in the sixth. Cueto struck out eight, walked none and threw 103 pitches, 67 for strikes.
The Pirates didn't do much to push up Cueto's pitch count, going down in order on only seven pitches in both the seventh and eighth. Pittsburgh lost its fourth in five games.
Chris Heisey backed up Cueto's superbly pitched game with his first three major-league hits, two singles and a two-run homer in the eighth against Jeff Karstens. Heisey, making his second career start, was hitless in his first seven at-bats.
Heisey apparently was so excited at homering, he nearly passed up Cueto on the bases, which would have cost him the home run. Cueto had singled.
"[Marty] Berry, the third base coach, is screaming at me to not pass him because that would have been terrible if that would have happened," Heisey said.
Cincinnati had 15 hits against four pitchers as the Pirates lost by six runs or more for the 13th time in 33 games, with seven losses by eight runs or more. Cueto didn't need any more support after Heisey and Brandon Phillips singled to the start the game, Votto hit a sacrifice fly and Scott Rolen doubled in a run against Charlie Morton (1-6) to make it 2-0.
Morton gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings, also allowing Hernandez's RBI double in the sixth.
- Cincinnati has won 11 of 15.
- The paid attendance was 9,027, but only a third of those showed up.
- Cincinnati (18-15) is three games over .500 for the first time since June 11.
- Cedeno initially thought his wrist was broken, but he stayed in the game.