Johnny Cueto makes it just four innings against Astros

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R.A. Dickey is the NL’s new ERA leader.

Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto, who had been wearing the crown, was hammered for four earned runs on nine hits Sunday afternoon against the Astros before exiting after just four frames. He struck out six and issued only one walk, but the typically light-hitting Houston lineup took advantage of balls left up in the zone and the ‘Stros are now in a position to snag two of three from first-place Cincy.

Cueto’s ERA jumped from 2.58 to 2.71 and his WHIP rose from 1.15 to 1.17. He has a 155/42 K/BB ratio in 192 2/3 total innings.

Dickey’s ERA is 2.64 and his WHIP is 1.03. He has 195 strikeouts and 45 walks in 198 innings.

The National League Cy Young Award might just go to a knuckeballer this season.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.