AT&T PARK — The rally that kept the San Francisco Giants one game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild-card standings featured an infield single, a fielder’s choice, a sacrifice fly and a couple of bunt singles.
On a night when the Cardinals had already won in dubious fashion, it was just the kind of luck the Giants needed.
During the bizarre sixth inning, the second bunt single came courtesy of Johnny Cueto and led to a pair of runs in the Giants’ 7-2 win over the Colorado Rockies.
Standing on the top step of the dugout, Hunter Pence couldn’t stop jumping up and down and waving his arms wildly as the play unfolded.
Cueto pushed his bunt towards third baseman Nolan Arenado, who slung an errant throw into the bullpen, allowing Cueto to advance to second and letting Angel Pagan and Joe Panik both race home.
“It was a crazy inning,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I think that’s the first time I’ve seen Arenado make an error. He’s the best. There’s not a better third baseman out there, but it was just euphoria in the dugout.
The game had begun in far less auspicious fashion for Cueto and the Giants.
Taking the mound for the first time in nine days, Cueto served up a double on the first pitch he threw.
After Cueto had held the Rockies to two earned runs in three starts entering the night, it took the visitors five batters to reach that total.
In his wobbly first, Cueto allowed an RBI double to Arenado and a run-scoring triple to David Dahl, but he also managed to strike out the side.
Strikeouts were the theme of the night for Cueto, who became the third Giants starter in a row to punch out 11.
“What gutty effort he gave us,” Bochy said. “He wasn’t quite a sharp there early, but he settled down and just pitched a terrific game.”
Cueto didn’t allow another run the rest of the way, throwing seven innings of two-run ball and ending his first regular season as a Giant with a 2.79 ERA in 219.2 innings.
“He’s everything we thought and more,” Bochy said. “I guess that’s the best way to summarize it.”
“Some players you know they’re good, but when you get a chance to see them first hand when they’re playing for you, you get to appreciate what they do,” Bochy said. “[You appreciate] the work they put in and you get to appreciate their gifts and talents.”
A night after Jeff Samardzija offered to pitch out of the pen for the final series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cueto also said he would make himself available.
“I’m ready,” Cueto said, per team translator Erwin Higueros. “The last game is on Sunday and if they give me the ball, I’ll take the ball and go out on the mound.”
With the win, the Giants moved to within a game of the idle New York Mets for the top wild-card spot, but were unable to gain any ground on the Cardinals.
St. Louis beat the Cincinnati Reds on a walk-off double by Yadier Molina. Replays suggested that Molina’s drive should have been ruled a ground-rule down, leaving Matt Carpenter at third base. By the time Reds manager Bryan Price decided to challenge the play, the umps had already left the field.
“You hate to hear that,” Bochy said. “I guess there were two outs, too, which is a big difference. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I heard the Reds are going to protest, but you hate to see that happen in these games because they’re all so critical and important.”
“It’s a tough break for the Reds,” Bochy added. “It’s a tough break, I guess, for us