CINCINNATI — Johnny Cueto is compiling some loud numbers.
The right-hander pitched a three-hitter and Brandon Phillips hit a three-run homer as the Reds beat the Padres 5-0 in Game 1 of a doubleheader Thursday.
Cueto lowered his majors-best ERA to 1.25 with his second shutout and third complete game of the season.
Is he the majors' best starter?
"I would say yes because the numbers talk and my numbers are going to talk for me," Cueto said with assistant trainer Tomas Vera interpreting.
Cueto is the first pitcher to go at least seven innings and allow two or fewer runs in each of his first nine starts since the Philadelphia Athletics' Harry Krause in 1909, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And he is the first Cincinnati pitcher to go at least seven innings in each of his first nine starts since Bucky Walters in 1944.
"He needs to start getting some national attention," Reds shortstop Zack Cozart said. "I was watching TV the other night, and they were talking about (Zack) Greinke and (Clayton) Kershaw and I'm like, 'What about Johnny C?' "
Cueto said he felt a little tight and sluggish while warming up in the bullpen on a cool afternoon but still shined.
"He's had games where he's been sharper, but he kept making pitches," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. "I don't know what else I can say about him."
San Diego entered last in the majors in batting average (.222) and runs (118). And it was shut out for a majors-high seventh time. Cueto struck out eight and walked two over 116 pitches.
"He's one of those guys that it doesn't matter (what's on) the scoreboard. He just goes out there and continues to attack, continues to follow his game plan," Reds catcher Brayan Pena said. "That's why he is who he is. That's why he's been pitching the way he is."