SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto strutted off the Oracle Park mound, tucked his cap and glove under his left arm and looked up at the crowd Tuesday night. For a second, he soaked in a standing ovation, smiling and giving a thumbs up as he approached the dugout steps.
Cueto's first inning on a major league mound since last July had been perfect. The rest of his night was, too.
The 33-year-old allowed just one hit and struck out four before hitting his pitch count after five innings, baffling the Pittsburgh Pirates with a familiar mix of pinpoint control, darting changeups and sliders -- as well as the occasional shimmy.
Cueto was all smiles throughout the night, which started at 6:14 p.m. when he walked slowly out to the left field grass to begin warming up. Thirteen months of rehab finally behind him, Cueto briefly looked up as fans filing into the ballpark gave him the first of several standing ovations.
He retired the side in the first, getting rookie star Bryan Reynolds on a tight slider. Jose Osuna watched a fastball go by for the second strikeout, which was part of a perfect second inning.
Cueto allowed his lone hit in the third, a flare from Kevin Kramer that just got past second baseman Mauricio Dubon's glove and landed in right field. The right-handed pitcher would retire the final seven batters he faced, getting two more strikeouts on changeups.
The Giants have missed all of this: pic.twitter.com/FNkHWig3c5— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 11, 2019
Cueto threw 69 pitches, 43 of which were strikes. His fastball maxed out at 93.4 mph and averaged 91.3. In 2017, his last healthy season, he also averaged 91.3 mph.