Johnny Cueto shuts down the Cardinals, lowers ERA to 2.15

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Cincinnati is out of contention, but that didn’t stop Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman from combining on a three-hit shutout of St. Louis as the Reds took three of four games from the Cardinals.

Cueto did the heavy lifting with eight shutout innings and then Chapman did his usual thing in the ninth inning, striking out two batters for his 33rd save.

Cueto’s excellence has gotten somewhat overlooked just because Clayton Kershaw has been so ridiculously amazing for the Dodgers, but the Reds ace now has a 2.15 ERA in a league-leading 222 innings this season.

This is Cueto’s fourth straight season with a sub-3.00 ERA, which is especially remarkable because he calls the Reds’ hitter-friendly ballpark home.

Check out the MLB leaders in ERA since 2011 among pitchers with at least 500 innings:

Clayton Kershaw    2.10
JOHNNY CUETO       2.46
Chris Sale         2.79
Cliff Lee          2.89
Hisashi Iwakuma    2.93
Felix Hernandez    2.94

This season the Reds are 20-11 (.645) when Cueto starts and 50-66 (.431) when anyone else starts.

Phillies, RHP Taijuan Walker reportedly agree to 4-year deal

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – The active Philadelphia Phillies added Taijuan Walker to their rotation on Tuesday, agreeing to a $72 million, four-year contract with the right-hander.

A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the move to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it was pending a physical.

It was the second major free-agent score for the Phillies at the winter meetings after they reeled in shortstop Trea Turner on Monday with a $300 million, 11-year deal. Walker and Turner join a Phillies team that made it to the World Series this year before losing to the Houston Astros.

The 30-year-old Walker went 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts this season for the New York Mets, one of Philadelphia’s biggest NL East rivals. He slots into a rotation fronted by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola.

The Phillies recently lost pitcher Zach Eflin in free agency to Tampa Bay.

Asked about the market for Walker earlier in the day, agent Scott Boras said it was robust.

“As you can see in the marketplace, there’s a whole number of pitchers that are throwing 60 and 70 innings that have been pursued, probably with the exception of (Jacob) deGrom, at the lower end of threshold around $13-15 million a year because the demand for quality pitching is so great,” Boras said.

“So, Tai … is one of the younger ones, one of the more durable ones and we expect him to be pursued greatly as his market unfolds.”

Walker was selected by Seattle with the No. 43 pick in the 2010 amateur draft. He made his big league debut with the Mariners in 2013.

Walker signed with New York as a free agent in February 2021. He turned down a $7.5 million player option last month in favor of a $3 million buyout, making his deal worth $17 million over two seasons.

The 6-foot-4 Walker made the All-Star team for the first time in 2021, putting together a fast start before fading to a 7-11 record with a 4.47 ERA in 30 games, 29 starts.