It was quite the return for veteran Johnny Cueto in his 2019 MLB debut on Tuesday night following his rehab from Tommy John Surgery last year. He received some run support early, and this time the Pirates late-inning rally fell short, as the San Francisco Giants topped Pittsburgh 5-4 in game two of the four game series.
Young Pirates starter Mitch Keller got off to a rough start in the first inning, allowing a leadoff single and a double to follow, putting runners on second and third with no outs five pitches into the ball game. Keller got the three-hitter Evan Longoria to go down swinging, but three straight one-out singles by Stephen Vogt, Kevin Pillar, and Brandon Crawford did three runs worth of damage before a ground ball double play got him out of inning.
Down 3-0, Keller collected himself quickly, and pitched very well for the next three frames. He allowed just two hits in that span and recorded five of the nine outs via strikeout. Overall the effort was much better than the stat line suggests, as the fifth inning started with two quick outs on a groundout and strike out. However, a two out ground ball single by Longoria and a two-run tater by Vogt made things look messy, giving San Fran a 5-0 lead. Keller induced a groundout to end the inning, but the damage was done, and he was done after five innings. His final stat line read 5.0 innings pitched, nine hits, five earned, no walks, and seven strikeouts. Plenty of good here, but clearly some spots where he could’ve been better.
Meanwhile, Cueto twirled the best game anyone could’ve expected, going five scoreless innings and allowing just one hit and one walk (both in the third inning) in what was probably going to be a shortened outing no matter what. What’s even better is that he earned four strikeouts, which is something he struggled to do last time we saw him on a major leage mound. If you ask Cueto, I don’t think he could’ve asked for a better showing in his 69 pitches. As much history as he and the Pirates have, it’s always good to see a veteran come back from a big injury with some success.
The five runs were all the Giants would score in this one, and the Pirates offense finally woke up in the eighth inning to make things interesting. A lineout and a groundout from the bottom of the order started the inning, so all of the magic happened with two outs and the top of the lineup coming around. Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds singled on line drives to right and left field respectively. Then pinch hitter Melky Cabrera doubled on a ground ball down the right field line, scoring them both. That brought up Josh Bell, who absolutley smashed a 2-2 pitch into the left center field bleachers for his 37th homer of the year. That rally brought the Bucs within one run.
Unfortunately the ninth inning wasn’t nearly as eventful, as a one-out walk was stranded by two strikeouts. The final score was Giants 5 and Pirates 4. If nothing else, the Oracle Park crowd has been treated to two interesting finishes thus far, and there’s still two more games to go in the series. The teams will square off again at 9:45 pm Eastern on Wednesday, as right-handed pitcher Dario Agrazal will go up against Logan Webb.