Snakes rattle Cueto, Giants slip to two back

Facing questions from media after a 4-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks Tuesday night, Giants starter Johnny Cueto had no answers:

“I don’t know what happened. I tried to do the best I could but unfortunately it didn’t go my way.”

Buster Posey contributed little else:

“(Chris) Owings put together a good at bat … Castillo put together a good swing on a tough pitch.”

San Francisco’s tumble to the Diamondbacks Tuesday night was just another one of those games. The Giants did just enough right but everything went all wrong.

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

This time it came down to one inning and, really, one two-out at bat. Welington Castillo plopped a two-run single to center field to give the Diamondbacks a three-run lead.

Castillo’s hit capped a slow, painful fifth-inning meltdown in which Cueto (L, 14-5, 2.98 ERA) drudged through eight hitters.

Owings made the biggest slash, cashing in on a leadoff walk with a game-tying triple. Jean Segura made due of a costly Zack Greinke walk to give Arizona the go-ahead run. Cueto endured costly walks here and odd bunts there until the typically-reliable pitcher was forced from mound.

It took Cueto 36 pitches to get two outs into the fifth inning, and Bruce Bochy knew it was time to get him. The 4-2/3 inning outing marked his shortest as a Giant. Bochy couldn’t say much, either:

“I think the pitches caught up with him. He was really on then started missing his spots.”

How did that happen? Cueto didn’t know:

“I don’t even know, myself. It was a bad inning. I don’t know.”

The meltdown flew in out of the blue. Cueto has been typically consistent against the Diamondbacks and looked to be on his way to another quality outing against the bottom-dwelling team.

He cruised through the first four innings, allowing two hits and striking out four to start, said Bochy:

“It’s unfortunate because he was really throwing the ball well.”

Cueto even had a single run of support–an unearned run scored after Denard Span reached on Segura’s error, moved to third on an Angel Pagan hit and Posey fly ball, and scored on Brandon Crawford‘s sacrifice fly.

The Giants could stay in this one on a few grind-em-out runs against Zack Greinke, who’s 3-0 record and 1.69 at AT&T Park proved that he dominated this mound.

Greinke was solid despite three consecutive tumultuous starts that led up to this one. Joe Panik‘s RBI double in the sixth inning proved to be the only earned run he’d shoulder.

But Greinke had hurled 84 pitches through the first four innings, and there lied a clear path for a possible Giants win. The dismal Diamondbacks’ bullpen that held a MLB-worst 5.30 ERA loomed near.

But the bullpen didn’t concede. Edwin Escobar held his own, pitching 1-2/3 innings of scoreless ball.

The Giants made some kind of ninth inning comeback against Daniel Hudson, who hit Jarrett Parker with two outs down. Angel Pagan made him pay with an RBI single. But that was all they could get.

Un-cashed opportunities stifled the Giants yet again–they went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and hit into two rally-ending double plays, said Bochy:

“We created those chances out there that we couldn’t get anything on.”

Adding injury to insult: Denard Span left the game with a stiff neck that Bochy admitted he’s concerned about. It’s bothered Span before, he noted. Angel Pagan was running gingerly between bases due to a tight hamstring.

The Dodgers game was rained out, so they’ll play a doubleheader agains the Rockies tomorrow. The Giants move two games back of them, anyway.


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.