Matt Cain and Johnny Cueto Faceoff in NLDS Opener at AT&T Park: Fan’s Preview

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In Game 1 of the National League Division Series matchup between the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds, the respective teams' aces will start the best-of-five series. Both Matt Cain and Johnny Cueto are having career years and have been the most consistent starters for their teams. While Cain had a perfect run through the Giants' 2010 World Series-winning postseason, Cueto also did well in his only 2010 playoff appearance, pitching five strong innings for a no-decision. Both pitchers' success will likely factor into which team starts their postseason run with a win.

This matchup also marks the 10-year anniversary of the Giants' 2002 World Series run that ultimately ended in a losing effort to the Los Angeles Angels (then called the Anaheim Angels). For current Reds and former Giants manager Dusty Baker, who is returning just weeks after suffering a mini-stroke and irregular heartbeat in September, this will be a unique postseason homecoming involving two of the teams he's managed.

For what can be viewed as a somewhat-surprising decision, Gregor Blanco will be receiving the start over Xavier Nady in left field. Valuing speed and defense over a more-powerful hitter with a better track record against Cueto (Nady is 5-for-8 with one home run against him in his career), Blanco will be situated as the team's No. 7 hitter for Game 1. As for the Giant hitters with the most experience against Cueto, Hunter Pence is a .343 hitter (12-for-35) with two homers and four doubles and Ryan Theriot owns a .302 average in 48 plate appearances against him.

Matchup:

The San Francisco Giants will host the Cincinnati Reds at AT&T Park located in San Francisco, CA on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. PT. This will be the first game of a best-out-of-five game series.

Regular season series:

Reds lead regular season series 4-3.

Starting pitcher matchup:

Cincinnati: Johnny Cueto

2012 season: 19-9, 2.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 170 Ks

Career regular season numbers vs. Giants: 2-1, 1.93 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 22 K

Career regular season numbers at AT&T Park: 1-1, 1.38 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 11 Ks

San Francisco: Matt Cain

2012 season: 16-5, 2.79 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 193 Ks

Career regular season numbers vs. Reds: 4-5, 3.54 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 58 Ks

Career regular season numbers at AT&T Park: 47-38, 2.98 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 662 Ks

Where to watch and listen to the game:

The game can be nationally watched on TBS and SN and heard live on ESPN Radio.

Lineups:

Cincinnati: 2B Brandon Phillips, SS Zack Cozart, 1B Joey Votto, LF Ryan Ludwick, 3B Scott Rolen, RF Jay Bruce, CF Drew Stubbs, C Ryan Hanigan, P Johnny Cueto

San Francisco: CF Angel Pagan, 2B Marco Scutaro, 3B Pablo Sandoval, C Buster Posey, RF Hunter Pence, 1B Brandon Belt, LF Gregor Blanco, SS Brandon Crawford, P Matt Cain

Sources:

Reds-Giants to begin with battle of aces, MLB.com

Reds-Giants Preview, AP

Reds Saturday lineup, Cincinnati.com

Bochy pens Game 1 lineup for Giants, CSN Bay Area

EXTRA BAGGS: Picking the Giants' ideal roster vs. Reds, etc., CSN Bay Area

More from this contributor:

San Francisco Giants Announce 2012 NLDS Roster: Fan's Take

Ryan Vogelsong Starts Last Regular Season Game Against Clayton Kershaw: Fan's Preview

Giants Have Another Shot at Eliminating Dodgers from Playoff Contention: Fan's Preview

San Francisco Giants 2012 Postseason Roster Predictions: Fan's Take

San Francisco Giants Will Have Barry Zito on 2012 Postseason Roster: Fan's Take

Austin Chang is a lifelong San Francisco Bay Area native, baseball fan, and supporter of the San Francisco Giants. Follow this Featured Contributor on Twitter @_austinchang.

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