By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- While peers certainly recognize how good Johnny Cueto has been for the Cincinnati Reds, it has been an uphill climb to gain public acclaim despite another fast start this season.
The NL leader in ERA among starters takes the mound Tuesday night when the Reds conclude their two-game series at Atlanta versus the Braves.
Cueto (4-0, 1.12 ERA) took over the ERA lead after Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster gave up four runs in a loss Monday. By comparison, the right-hander has allowed just six earned runs in seven starts this year and no more than three in any outing.
He had nothing to show for seven shutout innings at Milwaukee last Wednesday before Cincinnati emerged with a 2-1 victory, but Brewers counterpart Zach Greinke was quick to lavish praise on Cueto.
"He's probably the most underappreciated pitcher, since he's been healthy last year," Greinke said. "His numbers are pretty insane. I don't think I've heard anyone talking about him being one of the better pitchers in the league. Maybe it's time to start that."
Cueto carries a 12-inning scoreless streak into this game and has allowed one run in his last three starts overall, spanning 23 innings. While the Braves (22-14) did hand him a loss last year, Cueto limited them to two runs - both scoring on Martin Prado's home run - in eight innings of a 2-1 defeat at Atlanta on May 29.
Prado has enjoyed some career success against Cueto, going 3 for 9 with a double and home run. He went 2 for 4 with an RBI on Monday night and is 10 for 26 (.385) during a modest six-game hitting streak, but it wasn't enough as Cincinnati (18-16) won 3-1.
Brandon Phillips doubled home the go-ahead run and scored an insurance run in the eighth for Cincinnati, which has shown more plate discipline in winning its last two games. After striking out 49 times in their previous four games while totaling nine extra-base hits, Reds hitters have fanned only 14 times and totaled seven doubles and three homers.
The loss was another game to forget for Jonny Venters, who allowed both eighth-inning runs and took the loss. After being unscored upon in his first nine outings this season, the left-hander has been reached for five runs and 10 hits over five innings in his last six appearances.
"My arm feels good," Venters said. "I'm not making the pitches.
"I'm making a lot of non-competitive pitches. Pitches that guys aren't even thinking about offering at. And then making even worse pitches over the plate and they're hitting the ball hard."
Like Cueto, Braves counterpart Tim Hudson (1-1, 4.50) is looking for some support after getting none in his last start. The veteran righty conceded only one run in seven innings to the Cubs on Wednesday, but was saddled with the loss in that 1-0 defeat.
Hudson is 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in six lifetime starts against the Reds, whom he has not faced since 2009.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is not in the starting lineup for this game after leaving Monday's contest in the seventh inning with blurred vision in his right eye. Freeman, who has a team-best six homers, has a minor scratch on his cornea.
Updated May 15, 2012