MILWAUKEE — Johnny Cueto smiled wide as soon as he heard the word “pressure.”
Cueto pitched seven solid innings in his San Francisco debut as the Giants beat the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 on Tuesday night.
“No, no, why should I feel any type of pressure? That’s just another game,” he said.
Like it or not, expectations are high for him.
Cueto (1-0) was the centerpiece of San Francisco’s offseason rotation overhaul when he signed a six-year, $130 million deal after winning a championship with the Kansas City Royals. He picked up where he left off in the postseason, throwing his fastball effectively and varying his pitching motion to keep the Brewers baffled. He scattered six hits and struck out four.
“I felt very comfortable since Day 1. I’m going to be here for a long time based on the contract that I signed,” Cueto said. “It’s good that I had a good outing, especially the first one.”
Brandon Crawford homered for the Giants and saved another run with a sharp defensive play. Sergio Romo pitched the eighth and Santiago Casilla got the last three outs for his first save.
Cueto capped an up-and-down season last year with a superb World Series performance for the Royals, allowing one run while tossing a two-hitter in Game 2 to set the stage for his big payday.
He retired nine straight during one stretch, allowing Milwaukee’s only run when Ramon Flores hit into a double play with runners on the corners in the second.
“He just has great savvy, stuff, everything,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s enjoyable to watch.”
Crawford answered with a towering home run into the second deck on the first pitch of the third, then made a key defensive play in the bottom of the inning.
With Jonathan Villar on third, the shortstop fielded Domingo Santana’s bouncer and threw home to cut down Villar thanks to Buster Posey’s sweeping tag.
“It was a great, great tag there by Buster,” Crawford said. “Obviously if that doesn’t happen, it’s the tying run and who knows, we might still be playing right now. So, that was definitely a little thing early in the game that ended up mattering in the outcome.”
Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson (0-1) took the loss.
The Brewers need Nelson to build on last year’s campaign after he led the team in starts, wins, innings pitched and strikeouts.
The homegrown big right-hander was solid, reaching 96 mph on the radar gun and pitching into the eighth.
However, he hung a changeup to Crawford and made one more mistake that eventually gave the Giants a 2-1 lead in the fourth when he deflected Hunter Pence’s sharply hit grounder that likely would’ve been a double play.
Instead, Milwaukee didn’t record an out on Pence’s single. With the bases loaded, Matt Duffy followed two batters later with an RBI groundout gave Cueto all the support he would need.
“It was a tough break. The ball went off my glove,” Nelson said. “It was probably right at Scooter (Gennett) for a double play, but it is just reaction.”
ANOTHER NEW BREWER
The Brewers announced after the game they acquired LHP Sam Freeman from Texas for cash. RHP Ariel Pena was designated for assignment. Freeman is expected to join the team on Wednesday.
Giants: The flu-like illness in the Giants clubhouse seems to have run its course. Bochy is considering sitting several veterans on Wednesday because of the travel back to the West Coast. The Giants open their home slate with a Thursday matinee against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Brewers: RHP Matt Garza (back muscle) was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday. Garza says he’ll miss between four and six weeks with the injury. … RHP Tyler Cravy was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Giants: RHP Jeff Samardzija is next up in Wednesday’s finale. Samardzija signed a five-year, $90 million contract in the offseason to join Cueto in bolstering the Giants’ rotation. Samardzija is 0-3 with a 6.30 ERA in 13 appearances, including six starts, at Miller Park.