Johnny Cueto has enjoyed success against American League opponents throughout his career, taking a 10-5 record and a 2.55 ERA in Interleague games into the Reds' series finale against the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
But despite getting the win in his only career start against Toronto back on June 25, 2009, Toronto is an AL opponent he struggled with, yielding five runs on five hits while walking three and striking out four in six innings.
Reds manager Bryan Price hopes to see vintage Cueto on Sunday so a weary Cincinnati bullpen can get some rest following a 12-inning loss to the Brewers on Thursday and a 14-9 loss in the series opener with the Blue Jays on Friday, in which Reds relievers combined to pitch 9 1/3 innings.
Mike Leake did his part by tossing eight strong innings in Saturday's 11-1 win, but Price knows it will take more than one outing in which a starter goes deep into a game.
"When I talk about a quality start, I'm not talking about six innings, I'm talking about seven or eight innings," Price said on Saturday. "A couple of those back-to-back would do us a service for sure. We're going to need the starters to pitch, and if they don't pitch efficiently, they're going to still have to stay out there. That's just the way it is right now."
Cueto, who has gone fewer than six innings in only two of his 15 starts this season, is as good of a bet as any of Cincinnati's starters to provide relief for the relief corps.
The right-hander is scheduled to be opposed by veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey for Toronto. The 39-year-old was bumped from a Friday start in the series opener to Sunday in order to give him more time to recover from a minor groin injury, as well as to give him a general breather to keep his arm fresh down the stretch.
"[Friday's spot starter Liam Hendriks] was coming to pitch this series regardless, but with Dickey and the groin deal the other day, it allows us to back him up and give him an extra couple of days," manager John Gibbons said Friday.
Dickey struggled early in the season but has allowed two runs in each of his last three outings. He's had trouble with the Reds, however. In three career starts against Cincinnati, he is 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA (10 earned runs in 18 2/3 innings pitched). The Reds hit a combined .324 against Dickey in those games.
Blue Jays: Encarnacion enjoys playing against former club
In Friday's series opener, Edwin Encarnacion reminded his former team of what it lost when the Reds traded him to the Blue Jays in 2009. He went 2-for-5 with two home runs and a career-high six RBIs as Toronto mounted the second-largest comeback in franchise history in a 14-9 victory.
"It's a great feeling," Encarnacion said after the game. "I played here for five years, so it's great to come back and play the way I played today. I'm very excited."
Encarnacion has hit multiple home runs in six games this season and 17 times in his career. His two homers Friday vaulted him into the Major League lead with 23.
Reds: Contreras called up to fortify bullpen
The Reds called up right-hander Carlos Contreras from Doube-A Pensacola on Saturday to strengthen Cincinnati's weary bullpen. Contreras went 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA in nine games (three starts) for the Blue Wahoos this season.
In a corresponding roster move, Cincinnati designated outfielder Roger Bernadina for assignment. Bernadina hit .153 (9-for-59) with three doubles and five RBIs this season.
Contreras made his Major League debut on Saturday, retiring the side in order in the ninth to finish off the win for the Reds.
• Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus is 7-for-23 (.304) with three doubles, a homer and three RBIs in his career against Cueto. He's the only member of the Blue Jays that has homered off Cueto in his career.
• Several Reds have had success in their careers against Dickey. Third baseman Todd Frazier is 3-for-7 (.429) with a home run, first baseman Joey Votto is 2-for-3 with a homer, right fielder Jay Bruce is 3-for-9 with a double and a homer and infielder/outfielder Skip Schumaker is 3-for-8 (.375) with a double.
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.