Cueto blows Giants past Padres

Johnny Cueto lasted at least seven innings in his first four starts and took three wins along with him.

Tuesday night, Cueto went the whole nine to stamp his 100th career win, 14th career complete game and seventh career shutout, leading the Giants to a 1-0 win over the Padres to give San Francisco the series. The Giants are 4-1 in Cueto’s starts.

It was his first complete game since his two-hit, one-run complete game he tossed in Game 2 of the World Series with Kansas City.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park.

Cueto’s stuff was sharp; his changeup was puzzling and fastball — especially his two-seamer — just stifling enough to whiff a season-high 11 Padres, one shy of his career single-game high. His outing, constantly brimming on the edge of disaster, was fun to watch, said Bruce Bochy:

He’s the complete pitcher. I love watching him pitch. He’s an artist.”

Disaster might be too dramatic, though the Padres’ consistent jabs thinned the line Cueto walked. James Shields was no-hitting the Giants through four innings, Cueto had given up five hits by then, and the scales were tipping heavily toward San Diego.

Instead, the Giants pulled it out for their guy. Brandon Crawford broke up Shields’ little bid in the fifth with a single up the middle and Cueto pushed him over to scoring positing with a sac bunt.

Denard Span wanted to put this one away; he launched one deep to Levi’s Landing–but not over the fence. It was enough, though, to score Crawford for the only run of the game.

Span wanted that homer and joked-blamed it all on his strength coach Carl Kochan:

I didn’t do that extra set last night. I did two sets. I should have done a third set. We have to talk about getting a new strength coach. Seriously. I was in good positioning. The hitting coach, we need to keep him hired, but the strength coach needs to get out of here. That’s all I got.”

Span paused to note that the run, though not powered out, looked to have fueled Cueto through the back of the game:

“I think the first couple innings he was throwing 89-90, I looked up at the scoreboard the last few innings and he was hitting 93. So there’s a handful of pitchers in the game that when they smell blood, guys get in scoring position, they turn into a different type of pitcher, they turn up the intensity, and that’s what he did.”

After a pause, he joked again:

“But Carl Kochan, that’s our strength coach, unbelievable, that’s got to be a homer.”

Span just got AT&T’d. He’ll get used to it. He is adapting to the deep centerfield wall quickly.

Cueto was in the zone, but three big defensive plays really kept this one contained.

The Padres threatened first in the fourth after Wil Myers cracked a first-pitch hit. Matt Kemp struck out, but Melvin Upton blooped a single to put runners on the corners.

Buster Posey nailed a throw to a near-empty second base, where Brandon Crawford caught up just in time to tag a stealing Upton for out two. Derek Norris flied out to end the inning.

Threat dissipated.

They threatened again in the fifth. Alexei Ramirez got the leadoff double and Jemile Weeks advanced him on a sac fly. The Padres loaded the bases with a walk to Adam Rosales and Shields reached on a bunt.

No problem. Jon Jay cracked a ground ball to Brandon Crawford, who fumbled it a little bit before completing what looked like a double play to end the inning. Jay, though was called safe at first as Ramirez scampered across home.

Bruce Bochy called for the replay, which hadn’t been falling in the Giants’ favor all series. But this time, the evidence was clear; the ball beat Jay. Inning over. Bochy was relieved:

“That was a big moment when he called him out.”

The final dagger came in the eighth, Cueto 94 pitches deep, when pinch hitter Brett Wallace cracked a leadoff single and Travis Jankowski came in to pinch run. Myers struck out and Posey connected with Joe Panik, who gloved Jankowski in the face as he attempted to steal second. Said Cueto of Posey’s action behind the dish:

“He’s a really good catcher and he gave me a hug because I threw a complete game shut out. We get along very well, we’re like family, he’s my brother.”

James Shields has earned exactly zero runs of support in all five of his quality starts.

The Giants are a .500 team yet again, getting back on track after the rough Arizona sweep. They’ll look to sweep the Padres Wednesday afternoon before heading to New York to face the Mets for a three-game series.


Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.