San Francisco pitcher Johnny Cueto delivers a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies line up in the first inning at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Fri Jun 18, 2021 (AP News photo)
by Marko Ukalovic
SAN FRANCISCO—Johnny Cuteo is starting look like his old self.
The veteran right handed pitcher made an impressive start, pitching six solid innings as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 in the opening game a three-game series on Friday evening at Oracle Park.
The Giants have five games in a row and have baseball’s best record at 45-25. They are 20 games over .500 for the first time this season. The Phillies dropped a game under .500 with the loss and sit four and half games behind the New York Mets in second place in the NL East.
It wasn’t exactly how Cuteto wanted to begin the game when he gave up a lead off home run to Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera on the fourth pitch of the ballgame. Bryce Harper thought he had the Phillies third consecutive hit of the first inning, only to have Brandon Crawford gobble up a hard shot up the middle that ended in a 6-4-3 double play.
Cueto settled down after the first inning. He only gave up four more hits the rest of the way as he finished with five strikeouts and no walks in just 94 pitches.
“He’s always a strike thrower,” said Giants manager Gabe Kapler of Cueto. “He pitched to contact. He’s not scared of that contact. He was able to go six innings (tonight) in large part because his defense played well behind him.”
The Giants rallied in the bottom of the second for three runs to take the lead. Two doubles, a single, a wild pitch and a pass ball were the recipe needed as Phillies starter Vince Velasquez was a bit wild during the long inning.
Andrew McCutchen tied the game in the top of the fourth when hit his 12th home run of the season in the fourth inning after a bloop single by Bryce Harper.
“I feel that with every outing I’m improving,” said Cueto. “I think with every outing, I feel better and that’s how I want to keep it going.”
That was all the Phillies offense was able to generate off Giants pitching the rest of the evening. Dominic Leone and Tyler Rogers pitched a perfect seventh and eight inning. Jake McGee put the nail in the coffin in the 9th inning to pick up his 14th save in 16 chances.
The Giants tacked on singles runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Lamont Wade Jr. had a good evening with the bat as he went 2-3 with 2 RBI, including a triple that scored Cueto, which was entertaining in itself as he threw off his helmet before second base and ran like his life depended on it, who walked right before Wade Jr’s deep shot to centerfield that just eluded the reach of Herrera.
“I just want to be productive right now. I’m going to keep working, keep grinding. I just want to stay consistent and help this team win ball games,” Wade Jr. said.
Brandon Belt, who is on a hot streak, hit his 10th home run in the fifth inning to complete the game’s scoring. He is the third Giant to have double-digit home runs this season.
GAME NOTES: Cueto has surrendered eight home runs on the season. He is now in a three-way tie with Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood for the team lead.
Cueto also slipped and fell after throwing a pitch in the third inning. He was more embarrassed than injured on the play as he smiled after getting up and dusting himself off.
All three games of the series are being broadcasted on the Peacock Network Streaming service. This is the first time the Giants have been on NBC Universal’s streaming service.
The announced attendance was 16,157.
UP NEXT: The Giants and Phillies battle it out again in game two on Saturday 6/19 at 1:05pm at Oracle Park. Alex Wood vs Aaron Nola is the pitching matchup.