Anytime Johnny Cueto is getting the nod at home you have to take a look in that direction. I actually look at him in all of his starts because he can be that pitcher that can completely take over a game, but at home it has been a virtual lock that he is going to take the game over. He was one of the best home pitchers in all of baseball last season and has already gotten off to owning that spot again in 2015. This will be the second start of the season for Cueto, who looked hot against the Pirates in the season opener. Another great year for Cueto looks to be on the horizon, and a big pay check is looking to be in his future if he can do that. I don’t think he will regress much from last season, but that is if he can stay healthy. The only thing, I believe, that is going to knock Cueto off his perch at the top will be an injury. Knock on wood. All things considered, expect another big year from Cueto. I banked a lot last year with him and I did the same thing with my first pick for 2015. Here we are again in a similar scenario against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cards bring one of the biggest breakout stars of the last two seasons to the mound in his first start of 2015, Michael Wacha. Wacha suffered an injury in the second-half of last year which had an impact on his pitching. He ultimately had to sit out for some time to prepare for this season. It can be a nervous time for a club that is bringing a young pitcher back after a shoulder injury, especially for one that is promising as Wacha is. He is only 23 and has a promising future ahead if he stays healthy. Despite the injury hampering him, Wacha still had a good 2014 finishing with an ERA of 3.10. We saw what he did in 2013 and more importantly, what he did in that postseason. Wacha finished that season with a 2.78 ERA and the question was if he was just a flash in the pan. He pitched well up until his injury, so we’ll see how he responds here in 2015. He gets his first test this afternoon against the Reds on the road.
St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds
Michael Wacha (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Do you see that ERA for Cueto? It doesn’t read 0.00 because he hadn’t had a start yet this season. No it’s because he didn’t allow a single run in his first start. The 1-0 record and 0.78 WHIP tells you that he did indeed pitch. That is pretty well on par for what Cueto did last season at home. Note his ERA was just 1.71 at home pitching in Cincinnati. He also possessed a 0.83 WHIP and opponents BAA of .180. I expect a couple of poor starts from Cueto at home, but that’s it. Statistically, then, it is a good chance you are going to catch him when he is hot. Cueto was also excellent during the day, owning a 1.52 ERA in day starts last year.
There are some pitchers I like to look at spring training as a gauge of sports for the coming season. Pitchers coming off injuries is in the group of ones that are worth keeping an eye on. If spring training is any indication, Wacha is back and healthy. It took over 13 innings before he issued his first walk. His control was on point, and it didn’t look like there were any issues with his arm. He started 5 games and had just a 1.77 ERA with a WHIP of 1.03. I expect him to have a season in which he pitches around the 2.80 to 3.00 range if the arm holds up. He has looked good against the Reds in the past, posting a 2.30 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over five starts. Look for a game of the scoring variety, with a final score falling in the range of 3-2. Under like thunder this afternoon between Wacha and Cueto.
PICK: UNDER 6.5 RUNS (+105)