By DANIEL DULLUM
Sports Radio Service
Thursday, May 12, 2016
AP photo: San Francisco Giants winning pitcher Johnny Cueto bunts a pop up in the third inning left Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Wellington Castillo Thursday night
PHOENIX, Arizona – About that now-routine 100-pitch count limit. Johnny Cueto wasn’t paying much attention to it on Thursday night at Chase Field.
The veteran righthander allowed a well-spaced pair of runs on eight hits and 115 pitches through seven innings, as San Francisco fought off a late Arizona rally to win 4-2. Cueto (5-1) lowered his earned run average to 2.97 in the process.
“This was as good as I’ve felt all season,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “I don’t worry about my pitching. It’s just the way I pitch, sometimes I need to get upset at myself to pitch effectively.
Asked when he got upset with himself, Cueto said, “it was in the first inning!”
Cueto added, “I want to thank the Lord for the opportunity to pitch. I think it’s also a credit to my teammates who play really well behind me. I just try to do the best I can.”
D-Backs leadoff hitter Jean Segura was 3-for-5, but Cueto stymied the rest of the lineup. Arizona stranded 11 baserunners – eight against Cueto.
“Johnny did a great job,” Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said. “He threw a lot of pitches early, then he settled down and pitched a terrific game. He did a good job against a tough lineup. It was a good win for him, and for us.
“Johnny’s been so consistent for us. He’s giving us quality innings and he’s fun to watch.”
By winning, the Giants (19-18) remain tied with Los Angeles for first place in the National League West, and the Diamondbacks (17-20) are two games behind in what has been the weakest division in Major League Baseball so far this season.
The Giants’ victory didn’t come without some late drama. With one out in the Arizona ninth, pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin doubled off Giants closer Santiago Casilla, followed by a single by Segura. After Brandon Drury struck out and Paul Goldschmidt walked to load the bases, Casilla was pulled in favor of left-hander Javier Lopez.
With the lefty-lefty matchup Bochy wanted, Jake Lamb grounded out to second to end the game, and Lopez had his first save of the season.
“It was a little scary there at the end,” Bochy said. “It was a well-played game with timely hits. The guys did a good job.”
Casilla was visibly upset about being taken out of the game, but Bochy stood by his decision.
“That was an easy move to make,” Bochy explained. “Casilla gets emotional and he wants to be the guy out there. We have a veteran lefty out there, (Arizona) was out of hitters, it was easy to do that.
“You don’t mind guys being competitive and not wanting to come out. He’s not used to coming out. He just got a little emotional out there because he didn’t want to come out. We’ll talk about it.”
Meanwhile, Zach Greinke’s struggles continue for Arizona. The high-priced right-hander gave up all four San Francisco runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out four as his record evened at 3-3 and his ERA increased to 5.26.
“(Grienke’s) velocity looked the same,” Bochy said. “We finally broke through one inning with some big hits. Grienke had good stuff, so it was good to see us break through and get on the board against these guys.
“He’s one of the best in the game. He shut us down the last time we saw him (D-Backs 2-1 win on April 20 at AT&T Park). It was a great matchup between (Grienke and Cueto). There both cerebral-type pitchers. Today, our guy just pitched better.”
After trailing 1-0 early, San Francisco surged ahead with two runs in the fourth. After Matt Duffy and Buster Posey hit back-to-back singles, Brandon Belt followed with a single to center, scoring Duffy. Hunter Pence hit into a fielder’s choice, erasing Belt at second, but driving in Posey.
The Giants added two more runs in the top of the fifth on Joe Panik’s fourth home run of the season, a two-run shot to right. Also scoring was Denard Span, who led off the inning with a base hit to center.
“We finally broke through,” Bochy said. “Grienke has been tough on us, but we had some good at-bats there. Panik’s homer was huge, that gave us a little cushion.
“We’ve been in a rut offensively, and it was good to see Joe do what he did. Span had good at-bats, Buster, Belt, they all did a good job against a tough pitcher.”
The Diamondbacks cut their deficit to 4-2 in the sixth when Chris Owings tripled to right-center, driving in Yasmany Tomãs, who reached on a fielder’s choice.
Arizona opened the scoring when Jake Lamb drove in Jean Segura with a two-out RBI single to right in the bottom of the first. Segura led off the Diamondbacks’ first with single, moved to second on Brandon Drury’s base hit and on to third when Paul Goldschmidt grounded into a double play.
After that, Cueto settled down and gave the Giants yet another quality start. He held Goldschmidt to an 0-for-4, striking out the Arizona slugger three times after getting him to hit into a rally-ending double play in the first inning.
“You have to be able to concentrate, especially on a very good hitter like Goldschmidt,” Cueto said. “You just try to get the double play.”
On Friday, Jeff Smardzjia (4-2, 3.17) starts for San Francisco, facing Shelby Miller (1-3, 7.36) in a battle of right-handers.
GIANT JOTTINGS: Prior to Thursday’s game, the Giants recalled RHP Clayton Blackburn from Triple-A Sacramento. The corresponding roster move has yet to be announced. … Springtime in the desert: Game time temperature was 98 degrees. Announced attendance was 19,461. … 1B Brandon Belt is third in the Majors with a .445 on-base percentage. Only Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt has reached more, according to Stats LLC. … The Giants are 9-3 in their last 12 games at Chase Field, and the Diamondbacks are 12-2 in their last 14 games at AT&T Park; the last 21 of 26 games between the two clubs have been won by the visiting team. … Going into the weekend series in the Valley, the Giants are hitting .259 overall with runners in scoring position this season, with a team RISP batting average of .057 (2-for-35). … San Francisco has stranded 271 baserunners this season, tied with the Chicago Cubs for second most in that department. Pittsburgh leads MLB with 276 stranded runners.
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