CINCINNATI -- One of the last things you'd expect to see is for the Reds to have streaks of six straight wins and six straight quality starts both end on ace Johnny Cueto's watch.
But that's exactly what went down Friday night as the Reds fell in a 6-3 loss to the Rockies. Cueto lasted only 4 2/3 innings and tied a season high with five earned runs allowed. His 11 hits, including five for extra bases, were also a season high.
"I didn't feel good today," Cueto said via interpreter Tomas Vera. "I don't want to use excuses. What happened, happened. I have to get better for the next time out."
The Reds still maintained their half-game lead over the second-place Cardinals in the National League Central. St. Louis lost in extra innings to the Phillies.
It was only the second time in 10 starts this season that Cueto gave up more than three earned runs. But it was the second time it's happened over his last three outings. Cueto, who also had two walks and three strikeouts, is now 5-2 as his ERA jumped up by just over half a run, from 1.97 to 2.53.
"He didn't have his breaking ball," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He was flying open and couldn't control his breaking ball. It's a big pitch for him. He just wasn't locating his fastball like he usually does."
During the win streak, the Cincinnati rotation was 5-0 with a 2.41 ERA, and the team is 19-7 this season when it gets a quality start. It underscores the importance of good pitching, and when the Reds don't get it, even a nice 4-for-4 night from Joey Votto can be rendered moot.
Colorado took a 2-0 lead in the second inning, when Troy Tulowitzki hit a leadoff double and was followed by Todd Helton's two-run homer to right field. Eric Young Jr.'s blooped RBI single to center field in the fourth made it a 3-0 game.
"We made him throw pitches in the zone and battle," said Helton, a venerable Rockies star who entered the night batting only .220.
Facing rookie lefty Christian Friedrich, who was making his fourth big league start, the Reds answered with a three-run bottom of the fourth. Votto and Brandon Phillips each hit singles to start the rally, and Ryan Ludwick delivered with an RBI double to right-center field. Next was Todd Frazier, who tied the game when he scorched a two-run double toward the left-field corner.
Cueto couldn't hold the score as Carlos Gonzalez led off the fifth with a double to left field and Tulowitzki beat out a dink hit in front of the plate. Helton's RBI single scored Gonzalez for the go-ahead run before Cueto picked up a 4-6-3 double play from Tyler Colvin. The heartbreaker came when Jordan Pacheco ripped a double to left field that scored Tulowitzki and made it a two-run deficit.
"This is just something I have to put on the side and get ready and put my whole heart into the next one," Cueto said.
Baker had to go to his bullpen early and summoned J.J. Hoover.
"We were hoping [Cueto] could get through that next inning for us," Baker said. "We had come back and tied it up, and we figured we could get some more off of the bullpen."
The Reds were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, but their rallies besides the fourth inning seemed to only come with two outs.
Votto's fourth hit of the game was a two-out double against lefty reliever Josh Outman that put runners on second and third in the seventh. Ex-Red Matt Belisle took over and struck out Phillips to end the inning.
"That was a big night for Joey, especially against a couple of tough lefties," Baker said. "We did have some opportunities and missed some chances. The big hit eluded us tonight."
Cincinnati had just gone 9-5 over a 14-game stretch against winning teams. Despite the Rockies' 17-27 record, they've had a grip on the Reds in recent years. Cincinnati has dropped 24 of the last 29 games to Colorado since 2007, and that history overtook the Reds' current success on Friday.
"You get greedy. You want to win every ballgame," Baker said. "You end one winning streak and look forward to starting another one."