Cueto set to return for Giants vs. Cardinals

By Dave Del Grande, The Sports Xchange  |  July 5, 2018 at 10:50 AM
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Johnny Cueto returns from a two-month stint on the disabled list to open a 10-game homestand when the San Francisco Giants host the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a four-game series Thursday night.

The Giants completed a six-game trip with a thud Wednesday, dropping a third straight game at Colorado to cancel out an impressive three-game sweep at Arizona.

San Francisco will have to hope a return home rejuvenates the bats that produced 41 runs during a recent 7-3 homestand. The Giants were held to three runs at Colorado, their lowest total ever in a three-game series at Coors Field by a full four runs.

Cueto surely has the potential to turn the Giants' pitching fortunes back in a positive direction. Before being sidelined by a sprained right elbow, he went 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA in five starts in March and April.

After giving up no runs in two injury-rehab starts at Triple-A Sacramento, he was deemed healthy enough to return to the Giants' rotation.

"When you've got one of your big guys ready to go, you pitch him," Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced this week. "He passed all the tests. He checked every box off. He's thrown the ball well -- no runs. His bullpen (Monday) went well, he's practiced bunts, he's set to go."

Cueto will be making his 24th career start against the Cardinals, against whom he has gone 7-8 with a 3.74 ERA.

He has never lost to St. Louis since joining the Giants in 2016, going 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA in three starts.

The 32-year-old has had more than his fair share of success against some of the Cardinals' top guns: Matt Carpenter (.217), Marcell Ozuna (.200) and Dexter Fowler (.158).

Cueto will face a Cardinals team that will be riding the momentum of a late explosion that produced an 8-4 win at Arizona on Wednesday night.

Before that win, St. Louis had lost five of its last six games, having totaled 19 runs in those games.

The Cardinals will send out 24-year-old right-hander Luke Weaver (4-7, 5.16) to face Cueto.

The third-year major-leaguer has struggled in his last nine starts, going 1-5, and is coming off his worst outing of the season when he allowed eight runs in 4 2/3 innings in an 11-4 home loss to Atlanta on Saturday.

Weaver has pitched well against the Giants in his career, going 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA in two starts, both of which were in San Francisco.

Interestingly, Weaver has allowed just one home run to a current member of the Giants, and that happens to be Madison Bumgarner, who is scheduled to pitch Sunday's series finale against Jack Flaherty.

The Giants also expect to get Jeff Samardzija back from the disabled list during the series. He is slated to return from shoulder and pectoral soreness to start Saturday.

The Cardinals (44-41) and Giants (45-43) will open the series with nearly identical records. Both would be on the outside looking in had the playoffs begun Thursday.

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