Two National League teams who both aren’t going to the playoffs will square off here as the San Francisco Giants host the Pittsburgh Pirates for the second game of their series here. Rookie Mitch Keller will start for Pittsburgh, while Johnny Cueto will make his highly anticipated 2019 debut for San Francisco after a longtime off due to injury. Oddsmakers have the Giants as modest favorites for this one.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were really bugging me the first couple months of the season. They were somehow maintaining an above .500 record, despite clearly not being any good. They had one of the worst run differentials in the league, but somehow kept squeaking out enough close wins to stay respectable. It was obviously never going to last, and eventually they fell apart as I suspected. Since the All-Star break, they’re just 18-36. They have the third-lowest run differential in the league, ahead of only the Rockies and Marlins, and are in last place in the NL Central. The team’s collapse certainly doesn’t sit well with ownership, and it’s quite possible that manager Clint Hurdle could find himself out of a job at the end of the season.
As the Pirates look to salvage something from this season with a strong finish, they’ll hand the ball to rookie Mitch Keller. The 23-year-old has struggled so far in his first eight big league starts, entering this one with an 8.18 ERA. He’s been particularly bad in four road starts, with a whopping 11.81 ERA in those outings. In his last road start, he gave up 11 hits and eight earned runs in just four innings against the Phillies. He’s still finding his way in the majors, and he’ll need run support here from his lineup to give him a chance.
Cueto Is Back
The Giants certainly haven’t been great this season, but they’ve actually managed to beat expectations. Many observers thought the Giants might come in last place in the NL West, but they’ve actually been pretty respectable for most of the year. They entered Monday at 69-74, and have been competitive all season which is the most you can ask for from a rebuilding team. The team has a new front office, and they’ve made it clear that the organization isn’t focused on winning at the moment and is building for the future. They won’t be starting a youngster here though, and will turn to an old familiar face instead. The Giants will start Johnny Cueto here, which will be very interesting to watch if nothing else.
The former All-Star joined the Giants in 2016, and signed a massive six-year contract. He had some initial success, but his career has been derailed by injuries. He only appeared in nine games last year, and will be making his 2019 debut in this one. Cueto underwent Tommy John surgery in August of last year, and has been rehabbing ever since. He did look pretty good in his nine starts last year, with a 3.23 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in those games. Cueto is still only 33, so he should have enough left in the tank physically. He looked sharp in his final rehab outing, throwing six scoreless innings in a AAA game.
- 5-2 in Cueto’s last 7 home starts
- 12-4 in Cueto’s last 16 home starts vs. a team with a losing record
- 23-8 in Cueto’s last 31 starts vs. a team with a losing record
- 18-36 in their last 54 overall