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Johnny Cueto’s elbow barks as San Francisco Giants offense continues to slumber

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Johnny Cueto, seen here in August of 2017, only threw 61 pitches on Saturday. (Jacob C. Palmer/S.F. Examiner)

AT&T Park — San Francisco Giants starter Johnny Cueto reported significant elbow pain after getting throttled in a 7-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday. It was his fourth game back from a two-month stint on the disabled list due to a sprain in the same elbow.

“Every time I throw a pitch it bothers me,” Cueto said through translator Erwin Higueros. “I keep telling you guys, I keep telling myself that I’m fine but in reality I’m not. I just feel sad that I can’t help.”

When Cueto initially hurt his elbow in April, manager Bruce Bochy initially believed the right-hander would need surgery. After further examination by Dr. James Andrews, though, the team determined that enough rest could repair the damage.

Bochy removed Cueto after the fourth inning Thursday, noticing Cueto’s stuff was below his usual standard. Doctors will take a look at Cueto on Sunday.

The potential injury adds to a growing list of concersn for the Giants (52-54), who have now lost four in a row and are already without starter Jeff Samardzija (shoulder) and first baseman Brandon Belt (knee).

“I gotta be honest, sure there’s concern there for Johnny,” Bochy said. “We know how good he is, and he’s just not quite there.”

Cueto allowed four runs in his four innings, though three of those came on bloop singles from Brewers catcher Erik Kratz and right fielder Christian Yelich. Cueto threw 61 pitches. Reliever Ty Blach gave up two more runs in the fifth and an unearned run in the eighth.

Yelich continued his torrid series by going 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs, and five different Milwaukee hitters recorded multi-hit games.

The Giants offense, meanwhile, continued to scuffle. Despite a new-look lineup with right fielder Andrew McCutchen batting first, they didn’t record a hit against Milwaukee starter Jhoulys Chacín until catcher Nick Hundley delivered a sixth-inning home run. Milwaukee had already scored six runs on 12 hits by that point.

Seven of the previous eight Giants losses had come with them tied or ahead after six innings. That allowed Bochy to at least say his players were a break or two away from avoiding their slide. This one was different, and not in the way Bochy was hoping things would change. With four hits on Saturday, San Francisco is now hitting .215 since the All-Star break.

Said Bochy: “It’s not easy, trust me. These guys have a lot of pride and for us … to play like we played today, it’s not easy. It’s not fun to watch. But you’ve got to keep going and come out of this believing it’ll get better.”

Cueto’s apparent setback makes a turnaround more difficult. He has a 3.23 ERA and has been mostly solid when healthy this season.

At 32 years old and in his 11th MLB season, another elbow injury would represent a major blow for Cueto.

“It’s very difficult,” Cueto said through his translator. “It’s very hard to get loose. I feel really bad. I surely want to help the team, I want to go out there like a warrior and try my best.”

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