Giants roll past Rockies behind Cueto’s 13th win

Johnny Cueto pitched his third complete game of the season on May 23. June somehow went without a Cueto complete game — it had been too long, Cueto and his clubhouse neighbor decided:

“I was telling (Santiago) Casilla yesterday that I hadn’t thrown a complete game in a while, so I guess it’s time for me to throw one.”

Cueto (W, 13-1, 2.47 ERA) made good on his promise, leading the Giants to a dominant 5-1 win over the Colorado Rockies to seal his MLB-leading fourth complete game and 13th win. With that, Cueto joins the likes of fellow Dominican Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Ron Bryant and John Burkett as the only Giants pitchers to reach 13 wins before the All-Star break.

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

Every Cueto start has turned into a show, an improv. Each pitch features an unexpected twist (or shimmy), and every knot is untangled with expert precision despite the palpable tension.

Cueto faced one big jam Wednesday night: Colorado loaded the bases in the fourth with consecutive singles to lead off the inning. A walk to Carlos Gonzalez loaded the bases with one out.

Cueto combed through the inning, forcing slugger Trevor Story to ground into a potential double play. His defense managed to get the out at second, but Story hustled and was called safe to score Charlie Blackmon.

That was all Cueto would allow. His catcher Buster Posey met with Cueto on the mound a few times during that inning to sort through it all, including a strikeout to Nolan Arenado:

“For him to limit them to one run there was a crucial part of the game. And it’s fun for me to see him think through those situations, slow things down and really, you can tell he’s thinking out there about how he’s going to get through the inning. That’s fun to me.”

Bruce Bochy said Cueto’s value lies in his pitch-ability:

“He’s an artist out there. He’s got four pitches, he’s got command of four pitches, he can go up in the zone when he has to. He can go up a notch, he can crank it to 95-94. He’s just a special pitcher.”

But, Bochy added, Cueto brings a lot of value through his ability to carry the heavy load. He’s carried the load deep into games consistently, able to get through the sixth every start except one:

“He kind of reminds me a little bit of a riverboat gambler. He’s in such control out there with his body with his pitches and he’s not afraid of anything or any situation that he comes up. You see him and he’s locked into the game.”

A fourth complete game could not have come at a better time; an over-worked and apparently dinged-up bullpen will get two days off.

Brandon Belt said it boosts confidence to have consistency like that:

“I’d say there’s some confidence when those guys start, especially Johnny.”

To honor their second ace, Belt and the rest of the team held their hats during the post-game celebratory high fives — a tribute to Cueto’s habit of taking off his hat immediately after every inning.

Belt joked (kind of):

“That’s a huge part of his success and we wanted to get in on it.”

It was Belt’s idea, he assured.

Nolan Arenado’s offensive production is a good measuring stick when it comes to evaluating the Giants defense; he went 0-for-4 against Cueto, including a strikeout and an inning-ending double play to close out the first.

NL Manager Terry Collins told Bochy that Cueto will pitch (which he did not get to do in his first and only other All-Star appearance). Cueto will not pitch again before the All-Star break, but he’s made quite the case for a starting role in the Mid-Summer Classic.

Buster Posey’s solo homer highlighted an efficient offensive night to back up Cueto’s gem. A Brandon Belt RBI triple and Brandon Crawford single gave the Giants a 2-0 lead to start off the game — a lead they never relinquished.

Injury report

Cory Gearrin placed on the 15-day DL with a right shoulder strain. Gearrin reported the injury to trainers after a rough night in which he gave up the go-ahead home run to Nolan Arenado.

Bruce Bochy said before the game that the injury could explain Gearrin’s growingly inconsistent slider — like the one he hung right up in the zone to Arenado. Gearrin was clearly struggling of late; he gave up eight earned runs in his last five outings after only giving up eight over his previous 33 appearances.

Albert Suarez was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento only a few days after Sergio Romo‘s return sent him back down on July 4.

Bochy said he’s confident that Gearrin’s injury is a two week deal:

“Ideally I’d like to put all these guys on the two-seek DL to refresh. It’s a tough job they have.”

Gregor Blanco is out of the lineup for a third consecutive day after spraining his left knee, though he did come into Tuesday night’s game as a pinch hitter. Bochy said he should get a few more days off and is expected to be fresh by Friday.

Denard Span, who’s missed the last five games with a stiff neck, is also expected back by Friday.

A few updates on players expected back after the All-Star break:

Matt Cain is scheduled to make two rehab appearances in Sacramento starting this Friday.

Matt Duffy has been taking ground balls during warmups and Bochy said he’s been running on the treadmill and taking swings. He could start his rehab assignment over the All-Star break.


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.