CINCINNATI -- The Reds know if they want to make a push deep into the postseason, they'll need their ace back to his Cy Young Award-contending form from earlier this season.
Cincinnati got a glimpse of that again Tuesday night, as Johnny Cueto hummed seven solid innings to hold a hot-hitting Brewers club to just two runs on five hits and give the Reds a 4-2 win at Great American Ball Park.
With the win, the Reds improved to 93-61 on the season and, coupled with a Nationals loss, they are now tied for the best record in the National League with eight games remaining.
"It's nothing we can worry about, especially day in, day out like that," said Jay Bruce, who scored once in the second and knocked an RBI double, along with Joey Votto, in the fifth. "We just have to play baseball. We've played well all year, and we're going to continue to play well and try to win these games and expect to win. Washington has a good team, and so do we, so we'll see what happens."
It was Cueto's 19th win of the season, making him the first Reds pitcher to reach that plateau since southpaw Danny Jackson in 1988, and the first righty to do so since Reds Hall of Famer Jack Billingham in 1974.
Cueto, now 19-9, has one more outing slated for Sunday at Pittsburgh. He is 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA against the Pirates this season and will take the mound in search of win No. 20.
"That's the goal I want," Cueto said of a 20-win season. "God willing, I will get that one, because that's my goal. If I keep pitching and working like I am now, I should be OK. Thank God, those bad games are way behind me."
The victory marked back-to-back wins for Cueto, who had Reds fans worried after three consecutive losses to start the month.
But Cueto looked like his old self again, as he tossed 64 of his 95 pitches for strikes while fanning five and walking none.
"Right now it felt like the first time out," Cueto said through his translator. "I was checking video and noticed the problems I was having, and I was able to correct them. Now I feel like I'm back to normal."
The only damage allowed by Cueto was a fifth-inning RBI single from Jean Segura to plate Carlos Gomez, and a 429-foot blast from Aramis Ramirez in the seventh.
The Brewers have scored the most runs (119) in the National League in September and hadn't lost back-to-back games since Aug. 18-19.
"The velocity wasn't as high as it usually is on every pitch, but when he needed it, he had it," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Cueto. "Location is great. Movement of the ball is great. And he mixed in the offspeed when he wanted to, usually down in the zone. I don't remember him being that much of a ground-ball pitcher, especially against us."
Cueto gave Reds fans a scare of a different kind when he favored his leg while running the bases in the second inning.
Reds head trainer Paul Lessard went to check on Cueto at second base, but Cueto remained in the game, seemingly unfazed by the injury.
"When I ran the first time, I felt something behind my hamstring. I also got scared," Cueto said. "As the game was going, everything went away. I told them I was OK, and they trust what I say. They left me there until they decided to take me out."
Dioner Navarro, who knocked in two runs on a single to left in the second, called Cueto "a horse" for pushing through the pain on the mound. Cueto would remain in the game until the eighth inning, when he was replaced by Jonathan Broxton.
Broxton struck out the side in the eighth before closer Aroldis Chapman came on for his first save opportunity since Sept. 7.
Chapman sat down the top three batters in the Brewers' lineup to earn his 36th save, and the first since Sept. 4. He touched 100 mph twice.
"I'm not worried about the 100," said acting manager Chris Speier. "I'm just worried about the downward angle he can create. I was happy to see that. Broxton set it up so nicely in the eighth. Again, it was all set up by Johnny."
Mark Clements is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.