Johnny Cueto shrugged off an early hiccup and went back to doing what he does best:
Cueto allowed two runs and three hits in eight innings for his NL-leading 16th win, as the Cincinnati Reds topped the reeling Chicago Cubs, 5-3, in the opener of a doubleheader Saturday at Great American Ball Park.
Cueto (16-6) retired 19 of the last 20 batters he faced and struck out eight to further solidify his position in the NL Cy Young Award race. Coming into the game, he was second in the league to Clayton Kershaw in Fangraphs' wins- above-replacement with 4.1.
"Johnny settled down. In the past, Johnny might have been bothered by the first-inning homer," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "He settled down and acted like it was no big deal."
After giving up a two-run homer to Alfonso Soriano in the first inning, Cueto didn't allow a Cubs hitter to advance past first base. The Reds earned their seventh win in eight games.
Cincinnati used its power once again to score most of its runs, albeit from unlikely sources: Miguel Cairo and Xavier Paul both hit their first home run of the year, and Todd Frazier added his 17th.
Soriano's home run gave him 1,000 career RBI, making him the 274th player in league history to accomplish the feat.
"I feel great," Soriano said. "I'm so proud to get 1,000 RBI. Most of my career I batted leadoff, so to have 1,000 RBI that's a lot. I'm very proud of myself."
Jeff Samardzija (8-11) gave up four runs and six hits in five innings to receive the loss for Chicago, which fell to 3-13 this month.
Aroldis Chapman gave up a run and allowed the tying run to reach first base after two singles and a walk, but struck out Joe Mather to earn his 29th save.
Cueto got off to an inauspicious start, hitting David DeJesus with an 0-2 pitch and allowing Soriano's homer to left.
The Reds, though, made their deficit short-lived in the second, when Frazier singled leading off and scored on Paul's homer to right. After stranding a leadoff double in the third, Cincinnati went ahead for good in the fourth.
Frazier led off the inning again and blasted a 2-2 pitch into the left field seats for a 3-2 Reds lead. Two batters later, Cairo hit the 41st homer of his 17-year career for a two-run advantage.
It was plenty for Cueto, who more than settled down after the first inning blip. Darwin Barney reached on an infield single in the second, but the next 15 Cubs hitters were all retired until a Welington Castillo single in the seventh.
Cueto finished the seventh without a problem, then set Chicago down in order in the eighth to complete his outing.
Jay Bruce tripled leading off the eighth and scored on a Frazier sacrifice fly to give Cincinnati some extra insurance heading into the ninth.
Cueto has received a decision in 18 straight starts and has won seven of his last eight...Adam Dunn and Miguel Cabrera have also crossed the 1,000 RBI total this season...Cueto is 11-0 in 13 day game starts this season...Chapman has recorded a strikeout in 53 of 55 appearances this season and has 108 in 59 innings...Saturday's doubleheader was due to a rainout on May 1...Todd Redmond was recalled by Cincinnati for the nightcap and will make his major league debut...Chapman allowed only his second earned run against a National League team all season in 53 2/3 innings. He's allowed seven earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the American League.