AT&T PARK — As Johnny Cueto walked off the mound after throwing nine scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres, the right-hander pumped his fist and pointed to the sky.
All he needed was a run. Half an inning later, Hunter Pence providing that support, skying a popup to right field that somehow eluded the dive of Matt Kemp.
“To get Johnny a win after that effort, that’s what they were all happy about,” manager Bruce Bochy said after the San Francisco Giants edged past the San Diego Padres 1-0 on Monday night. “What a great game he threw.”
Cueto upped his record to 7-1 on the season after once again dismantling the Padres. The Dominican punched out six and allowed just two hits in his complete game — his third in as many starts against the Padres. In those three outings, Cueto has racked up 25 strikeouts while allowing just a single earned run.
When asked about his domination of the National League West’s fifth-place club, Cueto couldn’t help but let a big smile wash across his face.
“What can I tell you? They’re a major league team,” Cueto said via team translator Erwin Higueros. “I mean, they’re a good team. I just have to concentrate and make sure that I throw strikes and keep the ball down.”
With the win over San Diego, the Giants have won 11 of 12 and are now 16-6 in May, which is the best mark in the bigs. The crazy part is that the Giants have tallied all those wins even though the offense has been nowhere to be found.
The Giants have scored five runs or less in each of their past sixteen contests and have been particularly quiet when it matters most. During that stretch, the club is hitting .152 (16-for-105) with runners in scoring position.
No Giant has been epitomized the offensive stagnation that cleanup man Buster Posey who’s batting .182 (8-for-44) with runners in scoring position during the team-wide funk, and who’s mired in a 10-for-61 slide (.161).
“That’s fairly disconcerting that he’s only hitting about .170 this month and it’s gone like that,” Padres manager Andy Green said when informed of the Giants’ lofty May record and Posey’s struggles at the dish. “Every single guy on the field can impact a game every day. They’re solid baseball players.”
On Monday night, Pence was that guy — even though he wasn’t supposed to be playing in the game.
“I really wasn’t planning on using him to be honest,” Bochy said of the right fielder, who was left out of the starting lineup for a third day in a row as he deals with a mild right hamstring strain.
Before the game, not even Pence appeared to know if he’d be able to take part. When asked what exactly was wrong, Pence was at a loss.
“Umm. I can’t really [explain it],” Pence said. I mean, it’s like — what did they tell y’all?”
During batting practice, Pence appeared to have flunked his pregame test, taking just three hacks before exiting the cage. After Angel Pagan re-aggravated his left hamstring injury running to first base in the eighth, Pence was forced into the game.
“He was pretty adamant [that] he felt better [and] that he could give us some swings there,” Bochy said, explaining that his only other options were to use backup catcher Trevor Brown or starter Madison Bumgarner. “So, we put him up there. It was a perfect situation.”Bruce BochyJohnny Cuetokarl buscheckMLBSan Diego PadresSan Francisco Giants