ST. LOUIS — A start after Johnny Cueto complained of some minor back discomfort, he hardly looked like his normal self on the mound. But an uncomfortable Cueto was still plenty good enough for a solid win in St. Louis.
Cueto got through six with a lead and a struggling bullpen did quality work. The Giants shut the Cardinals out after the third inning and tacked on late, winning 5-1 in the first of three games at the new Busch Stadium.
A stretch early in the game could have been disastrous, but instead helped the Giants grab the lead. Cueto walked two and put another on when a throw clanged off his glove, and the Cardinals took the lead on Stephen Piscotty’s single. With two outs and the bases loaded Cueto went 3-2 on Randal Grichuk before getting a tapper back in front of the mound. Cueto made a strong throw to first, beating Grichuk by a half-step and ending the inning.
The Giants rewarded Cueto, opening the fourth with four singles in five at-bats against Adam Wainwright, who didn’t allow a hit through three.
Joe Panik and Matt Duffy both singled to lead off the eighth, giving the Giants a prime opportunity to add on. But Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford struck out against tough Cardinals righty Seung-hwan Oh.
Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal helped the Giants along in the ninth, entering in a non-save spot and walking the bases loaded. Denard Span’s seeing-eye single scored two and Duffy’s safety squeeze made it 5-1.
Starting pitching report: Cueto’s season-high for walks coming into Friday’s game was two, done six times. He walked two in the third and two more in the fourth, ending up with five in six innings. Cueto also struck out a season-low one batter, but the lack of his usual stuff and command led to just one unearned run. He currently has a 2.16 ERA.
Bullpen report: There might not be a more trustworthy arm in the ‘pen right now than Cory Gearrin. He entered with a runner on and one out in the seventh and struck out red-hot rookie Aledmys Diaz before getting No. 3 hitter Matt Holliday to ground out.
At the plate: Posey tried to put a bunt down in the eighth. He did not succeed. It was an odd sight. (On a serious note, guys often do that when they feel their bat speed is down, so maybe he's a bit tired.)
In the field: Jarrett Parker will get plenty of time in right with Hunter Pence down for eight weeks and he made a good impression in the sixth. Yadi Molina hit a liner to deep right and Parker made a leaping catch at the wall, and he made it look easy.
Attendance: The Cardinals announced a crowd of 43,560 human beings who know what it’s like to be a Thunder fan.
Up next: Former Cub Jeff Samardzija returns to the home of a good Central rivalry. He’ll face Michael Wacha, the man who threw the most famous pitch of Travis Ishikawa’s life.