Johnny Cueto couldn't ask for a better beginning to his San Francisco Giants' tenure. Shelby Miller's short time with the Arizona Diamondbacks couldn't have started much worse.
As Miller seeks an elusive first win with his new team, Cueto aims for his fourth while attempting to prevent the streaking Diamondbacks from a four-game series sweep Thursday.
Signed in December to provide a proven No. 2 starter behind Madison Bumgarner, Cueto (3-0, 3.38 ERA) has instead emerged as an early season stopper for struggling San Francisco (7-9). The colorful right-hander has won each of his first three starts and been dominant in two, giving a needed lift to a rotation whose other members have a combined 5.40 ERA.
Cueto did struggle in his lone AT&T Park start, surrendering six runs and 10 hits through seven innings of a 9-6 victory over the Dodgers on April 10. He rebounded with a brilliant 7 1/3-inning effort in Saturday's rematch at Los Angeles, retiring the first 13 hitters and yielding one run and three hits in a 4-3 win.
"I told myself I need to be aggressive," Cueto told MLB's official website through an interpreter. "I felt more aggressive and I felt a lot better than the other starts."
The Giants may need another big performance from their big-ticket acquisition, as they've managed one run off Arizona pitching in the last two games. After Robbie Ray threw six sharp innings in Tuesday's 3-0 win, Zack Greinke outdueled Bumgarner as the Diamondbacks dealt San Francisco a fourth straight loss and seventh in eight games with Wednesday's 2-1 result.
Welington Castillo broke a scoreless tie with a two-run homer off Bumgarner in the seventh, and Brad Ziegler stranded the tying run at third in the ninth to seal Arizona's fourth consecutive win.
Greinke allowed a run over 6 2/3 innings to earn his first win with Arizona (8-8), now 11-2 in its last 13 at AT&T Park. Diamondbacks starters have posted a 1.71 ERA over that stretch.
Miller (0-1, 8.53) hopes to continue that trend and reverse his difficult start. The 2015 All-Star with Atlanta allowed five homers and 10 runs over his first two outings, then exited Saturday's game at San Diego in the second inning after cutting his right finger from scraping the mound on his follow through.
''Just some poor mechanics more than anything,'' said Miller, who walked three and permitted two runs in Arizona's 5-3, 14-inning loss. "I wouldn't say (the injury) was the reason I was walking guys. I just couldn't locate. After that, I just kind of fell out of sync."
Miller also had some hard luck in two 2015 matchups with the Giants. He threw seven innings in a 1-0 loss in San Francisco on May 28 and exited with a 3-2 lead after seven in an 8-3 loss in Atlanta on Aug. 4.
He'll face an offense that went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position Wednesday and is 3 for 30 in those situations during the losing streak.
''We got a great pitching effort, we're just missing some timely hits,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ''We finally got one late in the game but we had a couple chances early.''
Cueto last faced Arizona in May 2014 with Cincinnati, but he's 6-1 with a 2.54 ERA in eight career starts. He's held Castillo, a .318 hitter with three home runs in 12 games at AT&T Park, to 2 for 13 in their matchups.