Giants' Cueto returns to face Pirates, whom he dominates

Field Level Media

Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto will proudly show off a trimmed-down look when he makes his 2019 debut Tuesday as San Francisco hosts the Pittsburgh Pirates on the second night of a four-game series.

The National League Central last-place Pirates dealt the Giants' fleeting playoff hopes a serious blow in the series opener Monday, rallying for four runs in the ninth inning to pull off a 6-4 stunner.

The loss dropped the Giants 8 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the duel for the NL's second wild-card playoff berth with just 18 games remaining.

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Cueto will attempt to get the Giants headed back in a positive direction when he makes his highly anticipated return from a 13-month absence that was the result of undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right arm last August.

Cueto insists he's worked hard for the opportunity to be able to make even a small contribution this season, the result being a decline from close to 240 pounds to what he's claiming is around 217 now.

"A lot of times after a surgery like that, you don't take care of yourself and let yourself go and gain a lot of weight," the veteran noted to reporters last week. "So my whole focus was not to go through that."

The 33-year-old made just nine painful starts last season, going 3-2 with a 3.23 ERA.

Cueto has dominated the Pirates in his career, going 20-4 with a 2.19 ERA in 30 starts. The 20 wins are nine more than he has recorded against any other team.

One Pirate he's never faced is rookie outfielder Bryan Reynolds, who contributed two hits, including the go-ahead single in the ninth inning, to Monday's win.

Reynolds was celebrating a homecoming of sorts. While he had never played previously in San Francisco, the 24-year-old was the Giants' second-round pick in 2016 and spent two seasons in their minor leagues before being packaged with Kyle Crick in a January 2018 trade with the Pirates for Andrew McCutchen.

The rookie went out of his way to express his appreciation to the San Francisco organization for its role in his development before Monday's game.

"I'm just really thankful that they picked me and I started my pro career with them," he said. "It's pretty cool. It's come around full circle."

Right-hander Mitch Keller (1-3, 8.18 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Cueto. The 23-year-old rookie has never faced the Giants.

Keller was knocked out of his most recent outing, on Sept. 3 against the Marlins, when he hurt his right wrist while catching a line drive off the bat of Miami's Garrett Cooper in the second inning. Keller retired all five batters he faced, three via strikeout.

Keller had been bombed for six or more runs in four of his previous seven starts.

He will be facing a Giants team that Pirates pitchers have silenced for the most part while winning three of four matchups this season.

The Giants were held to five runs while losing two of three at Pittsburgh in an April series before putting up four runs in Monday's series-opening loss.

--Field Level Media

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