WASHINGTON -

The Cincinnati Reds were without Joey Votto on Monday, and the first baseman may not play Tuesday, too, due to a knee injury.

However, Bryan Price, the Reds' first-year manager, can feel assured Tuesday when Johnny Cueto takes the mound against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.

The right-hander is the major league leader in ERA (1.25), innings pitched (72) and opponents' batting average (.135). He ranks second in strikeouts with 76, trailing only Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price, who has 77.

In each of his nine starts this season, Cueto (4-2) limited the opposition to two or fewer runs.

He is 6-2 in his career against the Nationals with a 3.99 ERA, and he is 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA at Nationals Park.

"He has been a great competitor," said Price, a former pitching coach. "I am thrilled every time he takes the ball. He is a guy that doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He stays out of the middle of the plate. He is very efficient from the stretch as well.

"I think he has defined himself somewhat (with) a sinker, cutter, changeup and periodic flurry of breaking balls. He really plays off the plate and then on for strikes. He is deceptive how he attacks the zone and the hitter. He sees where the outs are. The really good ones know by an approach or a swing or even a take where the outs are. He has been outstanding."

Price said Cueto has quick feet and is good at holding on runners.

"He is an Olympic baseball player," the manager said. "He may not be an Olympic swimmer or leading in the luge or something. He does so many things well beyond throwing the ball. He is a very talented guy for a guy who doesn't look like a starting pitcher."

Washington manager Matt Williams was not looking forward to Tuesday after his team lost 4-3 to the Reds in 15 innings Monday.

"We have a tough guy (Cueto) to face tomorrow," Williams said. "We will get the guys some rest and be back at it."