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Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants grind past St. Louis Cardinals

By
Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto delivers a pitch to the St. Louis Cardinals in the second inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on June 3 2016. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto delivers a pitch to the St. Louis Cardinals in the second inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on June 3 2016. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

ST. LOUIS -- There was reason to anticipate that Johnny Cueto's great start might hit a roadblock Friday.

After all, the San Francisco Giants' ace right-hander entered the game with a 5.71 career earned run average at Busch Stadium, along with a 1-5 record in his last 10 starts against the St. Louis Cardinals.

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But despite uncharacteristic control trouble and a season-low one strikeout, Cueto still gave San Francisco another win, grinding his way through six innings of a 5-1 verdict.

In upping his record to 9-1, Cueto gave up only four hits and an unearned run, thanks to a throwing error by first baseman Brandon Belt that led to Stephen Piscotty's two-out RBI single in the third.

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"It's a young team with young players," Cueto said through an interpreter when asked the difference between this and other starts against St. Louis. "I've had some good starts against them and some really bad ones, but this is 2016 and this is a new year."

And a new team behind him, one that's 35-22 and cruising through the NL West with a sizeable lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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The Giants were mostly stifled by Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright during his seven innings, but took advantage of their best opportunity in the fourth, stringing together four singles for the two runs that snapped Wainwright's five-game winning streak.

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Most pleasing to manager Bruce Bochy was that the last three hits, including ones by Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford that produced the runs, occurred after Wainwright had obtained two strikes.

"Wainwright was good tonight," Bochy said. "We didn't have much going until that time. Our approach was good that inning."

Cueto entered the game with the second-highest percentage of first-pitch strikes among qualified starters at 71.2 percent, but managed 14 of 27 in this one and threw only 60 of 105 pitches for strikes.

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His five walks were three more than he'd allowed in any of his first 11 starts, but Cueto didn't permit any of them to score. He stranded seven St. Louis runners in the first four innings, inducing a soft tapper back to the mound from Randal Grichuk to leave the bases loaded in the third.

"It just wasn't my day today," said Cueto, who repeatedly said that back problems which hampered his Sunday start in Colorado didn't affect him in this one. "I was just throwing too many balls."

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That problem also afflicted Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, who came on in the ninth for his first appearance since Monday and walked the only three men he faced before manager Mike Matheny hooked him for rookie Dean Kiekhefer.

Denard Span greeted Kiefhefer with a two-run single through a drawn-in infield for a 4-1 lead, and Matt Duffy finished the scoring with a squeeze bunt on the first pitch from Jonathan Broxton.

Wainwright (5-4) worked seven innings, giving up five hits and two runs with a walk and six strikeouts.

"It was a shame that he gave up a couple of runs on groundball hits," Matheny said. "Adam was good, but we just couldn't put hits together. We had a couple of opportunities against Cueto, but not much."

Playing the first of only 10 home games in June, St. Louis (28-27) fell to 13-16 when wearing the white uniforms and saw its streak of homering in eight straight games snapped.

Meanwhile, San Francisco is 5-3 on its 10-game road trip and has won 18 of its last 22 games.

"I think every team would say this, but the pitching sets the tone, especially the starters," Bochy said. "If they get deep into the game, you can make the moves you want. Cueto did his job and the bullpen did a great job."

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NOTES: St. Louis signed RHP Jerome Williams to a minor league contract and will send him to Triple-A Memphis. The 34-year old Williams last pitched last year with Philadelphia, going 4-12 with a 5.80 ERA in 33 games, 21 of which were starts. ... San Francisco RF Hunter Pence (hamstring) is scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday and will be out at least eight weeks. Pence was injured Wednesday night in Atlanta. ... Cardinals C Brayan Pena (left knee) will start a rehab assignment Tuesday night at Double-A Springfield. Pena was injured late in spring training and hasn't played yet this season.

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