CINCINNATI — Johnny Cueto got a standing ovation from the crowd of 26,459 as he walked off the field after pitching the eighth inning, giving him what could be a final send-off.
The right-hander made his best start yet since returning from a sore elbow, allowing four hits in eight innings, and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Wednesday to take their interleague series.
The Reds haven’t been able to get a deal with Cueto (5-5), who is in the final year of his contract and well could be traded in July with the Reds out of contention. After winning 20 games last season, Cueto’s time in Cincinnati seems to be winding down.
“I don’t know,” Cueto said, with trainer Tomas Vera translating. “I’ve just got to keep going out there and pitching and leave everything else in God’s hands.”
He pitched into the eighth inning for the first time in six starts since he returned from an inflamed right elbow. Cueto struck out eight, walked one and gave up an RBI groundout to Eddie Rosario.
“Sometimes when it looks unrealistic to have a player return, I hope everyone has a chance to step back and enjoy what they’re seeing,” manager Bryan Price said. “I’m putting the cart before the horse here. I really don’t want to do that.
“But I do think we’re seeing a really special pitcher right now. And regardless of where he ends up, if it’s in Cincinnati or somewhere else, he is a special pitcher to watch.”
Aroldis Chapman retired the side in the ninth for his 16th save in 17 chances.
The game started 12 hours after the Twins’ 8-5 win on Tuesday night following a long weather delay. Minnesota played several rested backups in the quick turnaround, with Torii Hunter among those out of the lineup.
Cincinnati scored on Joey Votto’s sacrifice fly off Trevor May (4-7) and catcher Chris Herrmann’s throwing error. May gave up six hits and fanned six in 6 1-3 innings,
Brandon Phillips led off the third with a double, advanced on May’s wild pitch and scored on Votto’s flyout.
May had walked only 15 batters all season, but walked Billy Hamilton and Phillips with one out in the fifth. Hamilton headed for third on a full-count pitch to Votto. It turned out to be ball four, but Herrmann threw to third base anyway, thinking it was strike three.
The catcher’s high throw went into left field, allowing Hamilton to score easily for a 2-0 lead.
“I thought it was a strike myself,” Hamilton said. “I wasn’t surprised (by the throw).”
Brian Dozer led off the sixth with a double — his AL-leading 44th extra-base hit — and came around on a pair of groundouts.
AGAINST THAT OTHER LEAGUE
The Twins are 8-10 in interleague play this season. The Reds are 5-9.
Todd Frazier’s hitting streak ended at nine games. Marlon Byrd extended his to a season-high seven games. Phillips extended his streak to seven games.
Twins: LF Shane Robinson was back in the lineup after sitting out Tuesday’s game with a stomach ailment. One of Cueto’s pitches hit him above the left elbow in the fifth, and he came out of the game an inning later because of the sore arm.
Reds: Phillips was back in the lineup, batting leadoff, after missing the past two games with sore hands. He went 1 for 3.
Twins: Kyle Gibson (5-6) opens a four-game series in Kansas City that will complete a 10-game trip. He’s 4-2 with a 2.68 ERA in six starts against the Royals.
Reds: Following a day off, they complete a homestand against Milwaukee. Michael Lorenzen (3-2) starts the opener. The Reds have won 17 of their past 23 against the Brewers at Great American Ball Park.