CINCINNATI The Johnny Cueto Angst is over or at least it should be.
For a period of time when Cueto was in the throes of a three-game losing streak, bogged down on 17 victories, the concern of Cincinnati Reds fans was palpable.
He's fatigued. He's pitching too many innings. He needs to trim his dreadlocks. He should abandon that Luis Tiant back-to-the-hitter twist in his delivery.
And some extreme fatalists suggested that maybe he should be moved back in the rotation, to No. 3 or No. 4 in the postseason rotation, instead of No. 1.
Oh, what are the Reds doing to do in the postseason when their best pitcher is now imitating a batting practice machine at slow speed?
Well, as Reds star second baseman Brandon Phillips likes to say, "It's all good."
Cueto has won his last two starts, including a seven-inning, two-run, five-hit performance in his last start against the Milwaukee Brewers, alleviating most fears the Cueto was burned toast.
But even his last start, as good as he was on the mound, drew a fear factor for what he did on the bases. As he ran the basepaths in the second inning, he began limping like a thoroughbred about to come up lame.
Acting manager Chris Speier's heart jumped to his mouth and thumped like a bass drum.
And Cueto was scared, too.
"It scared the daylights out of us when he came up limping there," said Speier. "But he was fine and he didn't even want to come out after the seventh inning."
Cueto said he felt something tight behind his hamstring, "And I also got scared. But as the game went on everything went away and I told them I was OK and they trusted what I said and left me in the game."
At one point Cueto seemed a shoo-in for the Naetional League Cy Young Award. While that has diminished under the cloud of the three-game losing streak before his recent resurgence, he has one start remaining to become Cincinnati's first 20-game winner since Danny Jackson won 23 in 1988.
"That's the goal, that's the goal I want," said Cueto. "God willing, I'll get that. Thank God those bad games are gone, behind me."
Cueto said he watched video of his struggles and said, "I feel I'm back on track. I checked the videos and I noticed some problems I was having and I've been able to correct them and I'm back to normal."
On the night of his 19th win, Cueto's usual catcher, Ryan Hanigan, was out of the lineup with some minor aches and pains, replaced by Dioner Navarro. Not only did Navarro lead the way for Cueto behind the plate, his two-run bases-loaded single in the second inning gave Cueto a 2-0 lead in a game the Reds won, 4-2.
Said Cueto, "I feel as good with Navarro as I do with Hanigan. Both work well with me. He made me throw a lot of fastballs tonight. We worked together in spring training so it was easy for me to work with him."
Said Speier, "He really went out there and after it tonight. He really didn't want to come out after the seventh inning but you weight out the risk and the reward and the risk was too big. But he did a fantastic job, really pounded it with his fastballs."
And there was another positive indicator for the postseason involving pitching. Closer Aroldis Chapman, after one non-save practice run, entered the ninth inning with a two-run lead Tuesday and pitched a 1-2-3 inning for his 36th save, his first since September 4.
Chapman, citing fatigue in his sshoulder that reduced the speed of his fastball from 100 to 94 and 95, touched 101 on the speed gun.
"I'm not worried about the 100, just the downward angle on his pitches that he can create," said Speier. "That's what makes him so good and that's what he had."