Pittsburgh Pirates Have A Surprise For Johnny Cueto
By Tom Smith
The Pittsburgh Pirates are coming home for the first National League Playoff Game in PNC Park history, and you are going to be overloaded with information before the game Tuesday. Relax. We got this.
Johnny Cueto has been announced as the starter for Dusty Baker. Yeah, we know all about Cueto.
The 28-year old right hander has been the Buccos’ Kryptonite, with his slick 13-4 record and a stingy 2.37 ERA in 21 career starts. It’s even worse at PNC Park, where Cueto has been invited to pitch 13 times and he’s been a downright unwelcome guest with his 8-2 mark and flashy 1.90 ERA.
But Tuesday? It ends.
Take a closer look at the recent starts by Cueto. There haven’t been many in 2013, as Cueto has struggled with injuries. The month of September was filled with two cupcake starts against the Mets, where he flashed an excellent changeup-but a shitty cutter; and another start against the cupcake Astros where his changeup sucked, but the cutter was his pitch.
Cueto fired an eight scoreless innings, 103-pitch outing against the Buccos on May 31 when his changeup was just dirty. The outing was a sparkler, but it took its toll. The month of June hit, and it took Cueto 16 days before he stepped back on the bump.
The specific ailment has been a strained right lat muscle that has put the brakes on Cueto for most of the year. Cueto’s name has appeared on the Reds DL three times, causing him to miss about two and a half months. How the Reds survived his absence is a tribute to the talent on the Reds roster.
Cueto’s recent injury happened the last time he pitched in October. The Dominican strained his right oblique muscle in Game One of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants, who beat the Reds in five games.
The Pirates have struggled against Cueto. Everybody knows that, and you will hear it countless times until 8:07pm Tuesday. But take a deeper look and you will find two new faces in the lineup… Justin Morneau doesn’t have experience against him, but oh, shit Marlon Byrd owns him! Holy. Hell. Break out the ball gag because against Cueto, Byrd has a career 1.560 OPS?@#??!!
Byrd is hot now, too—hitting .324 in his past ten games including eight hits in his past eleven at-bats.
Let’s trust Marlon Byrd is Cueto’s Kryptonite, and that he has a big night.
Pedro Alvarez has five career hits against Cueto, and is heating up at just the right time. El Toro is hitting .324 over his last ten games with three bombs–talk about timely hitting.
Andrew McCutchen has three homers in his career off the Reds starter, but is struggling at a .176 clip in his past ten games.
Also, finally….please don’t cough here, we are very serious (at least we think we are) — Clint Hurdle might want to consider Garrett Jones as the first option off the bench, looking at his success against the Reds righty.
Give the Pirates Sunday, Monday and most of Tuesday to study film against Cueto, and we like the Bucs chances. Another thing you are going to hear is the obvious – ‘the Pirates haven’t won four in a row against the Reds since you were in second grade,’ or whatever. This Pirates lineup isn’t the same one that Cueto has owned in the past.
New faces. Preparation time. Rest. Cueto’s lack of pitching this season. It all adds up to this for us – the Pirates have the lineup to take down the China Doll. Don’t worry about Kryptonite, the Bucs are the Reds’ Kryptonite come Tuesday.