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San Francisco Giants: Johnny Cueto brilliant in return from Tommy John

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 05: Johnny Cute #47 of the San Francisco Giants pitches in the first inning against the St Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on July 5, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 05: Johnny Cute #47 of the San Francisco Giants pitches in the first inning against the St Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on July 5, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Johnny Cueto made his return to the San Francisco Giants last night, taking the mound for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last August.

After more than a year watching from the sidelines, Johnny Cueto took the mound for the San Francisco Giants against a scrappy Pittsburgh Pirates team that had just pulled off a four-run, ninth-inning comeback the night before.

The first batter to greet him was standout young shortstop Kevin Newman, who grounded out on the third pitch of his at-bat.

Next up was former San Francisco Giants prospect Bryan Reynolds, who was shipped to Pittsburgh in the Andrew McCutchen trade. He struck out on a 2-2 slider that clocked in at 87.1 mph. A Colin Moran groundout to first baseman Brandon Belt ended the first inning. The slider was his go-to pitch in the early going, as he recorded all three outs in the first inning with it.

https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1171605014772666369

After that 1-2-3 innings, the Giants offense quickly provided some welcome support, scoring three runs in the first inning while playing at home for the first time this season.

Rookie Mauricio Dubon led off the bottom of the first with a single through the pull shift, then Brandon Belt crushed a double off the brick wall in right field, putting runners at second and third with nobody out. After an Evan Longoria strikeout, Dubon and Belt both scored on a single from veteran catcher Stephen Vogt. He was then plated by team RBI leader Kevin Pillar.

Staked with a lead, Cueto kept rolling in the second inning, retiring the side on 18 pitches.

It wasn’t until the third inning with one out that Cueto allowed his first hit of the game. It was Kevin Kramer who recorded the first and only hit against Cueto. After a sac bunt and a walk, Cueto got Reynolds to ground, this time on a 2-2 fastball.

The fourth inning took Cueto just nine pitches. After a seven-pitch strikeout of Moran, he got All-Star first baseman Josh Bell and Jose Osuna out on just one pitch.

He followed that up with a 1-2-3 fifth inning, bringing to a close his terrific return performance. His final line:

  • W, 5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 69 pitches

The game ended in a 5-4 victory for the San Francisco Giants and Cueto walked away with his first victory since April 28, 2018, against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 2018, Cueto’s average fastball velocity was 90.5mph. Last night, it was 91.2 mph. A good sign as he shakes off the rust of a long layoff.

After his stellar return, manager Bruce Bochy has not decided on when Cueto’s next outing will be. But, it is safe to say that “Dia de Cueto” is officially back.

With the focus now squarely the 2020 season, Cueto’s return has major implications for the club’s future plans.

Next. Five starting pitchers the Giants should target in free agency

A healthy and productive Johnny Cueto would provide a major boost to the San Francisco Giants next season, especially if they are trying to replace a departed Madison Bumgarner.

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