NL Wild Card rematch, starts by Keuchel, Waino among today's highlights
By Chad Thornburg
Johnny Cueto will be pitching in familiar territory when his Giants open a three-game series in Cincinnati tonight. Cueto will take the mound at the Great American Ball Park for the first time while wearing an opposing uniform, facing the club that signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2004.
Cueto, who spent most of his first eight big league seasons with Cincinnati, became a casualty of the Reds' rebuilding plan when they dealt him to the Royals last July. The right-hander admitted tonight's start carries a little extra excitement for him as he lines up against his former teammates and employer. Cueto's Cincinnati homecoming is just one of many intriguing matchups on tap for today's 10-game slate, with each contest available for streaming on MLB.TV.
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Here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times in ET):
Cueto takes on familiar foe: SF@CIN, 7:10 p.m.
Cueto is off to a strong start with the Giants, who signed him to a six-year, $130 million deal this winter. He's logged at least seven innings in each of his five starts with San Francisco and is coming off a shutout vs. the Padres in which he struck out a season-best 11 batters. Cueto's opponent tonight will be one of the players he was traded from Cincinnati to Kansas City for -- left-hander Brandon Finnegan.
"Isn't baseball funny that it's Finnegan against Cueto?" Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It will be a good matchup. I'm sure it will mean a lot to Cueto to come back."
Stat that matters: Cueto has a first-pitch strike percentage of 77.6 (114 of 147) this season, which ranks first among all qualifiers.
Hammel, Cole duel in NL Central clash: CHC@PIT, 7:05 p.m.
The Cubs and Pirates will meet for the first time since Chicago won last year's National League Wild Card Game when they take the field at PNC Park. One of the hottest pitchers in baseball, Jason Hammel, will toe the rubber for the Cubs. Hammel has given up just two earned runs through four starts (24 innings) this season, striking out 22 against nine walks. The right-hander has even contributed with his bat; he's driven in more runs (three RBIs) than he's allowed and boasts a three-game hitting streak. The Pirates will counter with Gerrit Cole, who has consistently pitched well against this division foe. Cole is 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA in nine career starts vs. the Cubs.
Stat that matters: The Pittsburgh offense has been heating up lately, showing some renewed power with home runs in a season-high six straight games. The Pirates have 17 homers in their last nine contests after hitting just seven total in their first 16.
Wainwright seeks improved results: PHI@STL, 8:15 p.m.
Although the results have yet to be there for Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals ace exited his last start feeling good about the way he threw the ball. Wainwright allowed seven hit and four runs in 5 1/3 innings vs. Arizona his last time out, but was happy with the life on his pitches.
"My results didn't match my stuff," Wainwright said. "My stuff was dramatically different and better than it has been."
Wainwright will look to build upon that when he takes on right-hander Jeremy Hellickson and the Phillies. Hellickson made his best start of the year last week, limiting the Nationals to just two hits in seven scoreless frames.
Stat that matters: The Phillies set a Major League record in April, averaging 10.19 strikeouts per nine innings (245 strikeouts in 216 1/3 innings). Wainwright averages 7.6 strikeouts per nine for his career, though that number has dipped to what would be a career-low 4.6 through five starts this season.
Keuchel looks to right the ship: MIN@HOU, 8:10 p.m.
After a strong start to the year, Dallas Keuchel has stumbled in his last two outings, surrendering 11 runs on 19 hits in a pair of six-inning starts. Keuchel isn't alone in his struggles, however. At 7-17, the club owns one of the worst records in baseball.
"We have people busting their tails and doing everything they possibly can, and it seems like we're not a cohesive unit," Keuchel said. "Until we are, it won't look pretty. That's just the way it is."
The Twins will send their top prospect, Jose Berrios, to the mound. Berrios -- the No. 16 overall prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com -- lasted only four-plus innings in his Major League debut, surrendering five runs on six hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch in a loss to the Indians.
Stat that matters: The Twins could have a tough time against Keuchel. Minnesota batters entered Sunday hitting just .071 (1-for-14) against left-handed pitchers over the last week, which ranks last in the Majors.
MLB.TV Premium subscribers get the Mosaic View -- split screen or quad, available on PC or Mac only. That always comes in handy, especially when scoreboard-watching looms. MLB.TV Premium and MLB.TV Single Team subscribers both enjoy HD and both will get real-time highlights and player stats automatically loaded moments after they occur (only for the game you are watching with MLB.TV Single Team, and for all games with MLB.TV Premium).
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.