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Giants win, 4-2, behind strong Cueto start, Panik dinger

It started ugly. It ended beautifully.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

This was a battle of what could have been vs. what most certainly is. The Giants wanted Zack Greinke. They ended up with Johnny Cueto. They were happy about it. They're thrilled about it, really, but they can't help but wonder about the what-ifs. You know about the what-ifs, even if you're supremely happy. It's only human.

What if, instead of asking my future spouse on a date, I started dating my best friend's roommate instead?

Those thoughts are natural. You just wonder about the alternate universe, that's all.

What if I offered my friend's roommate an extra $20 million to marry me? Would they have taken it? What if I gave them an extra $30 million?

Yes, that's ... actually, no, I can't endorse that. That's incredibly bizarre, and you should be ashamed of those thoughts. Look, the rest of us will be over here talking about baseball, and you should probably take a break and refocus.

Ah, but it wasn't just the Giants who missed out on Greinke. It was the Diamondbacks who missed out on Cueto. The first offer of the hot stove league was a very lucrative offer from the Diamondbacks, close to what the Giants ended up paying. It seemed optimistic on Cueto's part to turn it down. But it all worked out for him.

And it all worked out for the Giants. Greinke is 12 earned runs away from his season total from 2015. Cueto is a jolly kitty cat out there, and he's just about my favorite baseball player to watch right now. It worked out for Cueto, too, as he doesn't have to pitch half his games in Chase Field.

Everyone's happy! Except for the Diamondbacks, which is great.

This game was a poorly scripted, fear-mongering piece of fluff for the first two innings. It was a hackneyed story that made you think bleak thoughts about your favorite baseball team. The Giants got the leadoff hitter on against Greinke, putting him right in the stretch. What a start, why that deserves a beer, so I'll just get one from the fridge, and I'm back, and, wait, where did the runner go? The Giants can't have nice things, and I'm guessing they haven't driven in a leadoff walk more than twice out of their last 15 opportunities. No, their last 25 opportunities.

I'm not looking that up, but I'll keep repeating it, which basically makes it true. Election year!

And of course the Giants gave up a first-inning run. Of course it came with two outs. It was all so predictable. Why, the Giants haven't had an RBI with two outs in their last 35 opportunites. Probably 45, really.

Their pitcher got a double. They kept getting runners on against Cueto. Every time Paul Goldschmidt came up, it felt like there were two runners on base, which isn't exactly the best plan. The first two-and-a-half innings were a caricature of everything that's annoyed us about the Giants over the last week.

Then the Giants took the field, sneezed on the Diamondbacks, and passed the virus along.

If you can think of a better explanation, I'm all ears. The rest of the game was the Diamondbacks acting like the Giants from the last week. Their best hitter couldn't buy a hit. There were double plays and hard-luck outs. Their leadoff hitter would reach on a ball that gets by the catcher, and they couldn't do anything with the gift. Then they blew a chance with the winning run on base.

We knew how it felt. We were like ...

Also, you can make unlimited Simpsons GIFs now, so expect one of these every night, unless you should expect two.

In the end, it wasn't the game we've been used to over the past week. The Giants didn't exactly slap the ball all over the park, but they did much, much better than they have been doing. And they won.

They have a winning streak!

And then tomorrow is Jeff Samardzija and then right back to Madison Bumgarner. This first-place stuff is awesome.

* * *

My favorite Cueto sequence of the night came against Brandon Drury in the seventh. With two strikes, Cueto gave him one of his Windups of the Drunken Master:

I know these hitters are looking for the arm speed and the release, but that still has to be somewhat irritating to pick up.

Then Cueto gave him the Tiant Misbehavin':

Back to you like he don't give a damn. Because he doesn't. And that's when you're completely flustered, and he drops a Left The Oven On.

Two wacky-delivery fastballs in the low-90s, followed with a quick-pitch changeup.

So fun. So very fun.

* * *

Do you prefer ...

It's a low-diving Panik attaaaaaack

Or do you prefer ...

It was a high-flying Panik attaaaaack

I'm okay with both, really. And if there was ever a hitter on the Giants who deserved a no-doubt home run, it was Panik, who was hitting into some of the worst luck of the year all homestand. He hit a ball that fell in front of an outfielder, and he got a fielder's choice for it.

He deserved that.

* * *

Quick toast to Buster Posey, defensive badass. Even though he's been slumping (with two hits today, though), let's always remember that he's an outstanding defensive catcher. Sometimes it's his stellar arm -- he's caught 56 percent of runners attempting a steal this season. Sometimes it's his ... you know, whatever this is:

"You give him the ol' SLIPPERY FISH. You know, the ol' ELECTRIC EEL, right in on the hands."

And sometimes it's when he's looking up at the batter for several seconds, waiting for him to reveal a tell, like a crusty poker player who never seems to lose. Only then does he call the pitch.

I'll bet Cueto loves that. I don't know if Posey's been doing it since 2010, but I've definitely noticed it a couple times this year. What's he thinking? Will it be in his autobiography? Will it be in Kitty Kelley's biography?

We can only hope so.