Johnny Cueto pitched an amazing game and we should not lose sight of the fact that it happened. After last year’s blister problems and this season’s brief ankle issue there’s an air of “Cueto’s fragile” whenever he takes the mound now. And right away in tonight’s game, Cueto couldn’t pitch until they fixed whatever was wrong with the pitching mound (theory: leftover shards of glass from the Gibson era). But Cueto seemed to be operating in the “prove myself” mode tonight, especially as it related to his health. He was a mobile pitcher, running all over the infield on popups. Darting is perhaps the right word...
Crawford might have had to make a more physical play rushing to get to the ball as he left his shifted position, but Cueto was able to run in a straight line and make what was for him a difficult play. The tiny blurry faces of everyone else in frame look to all be conveying the same thing: “Uhhhh, what’s happening?” Johnny Cueto is happening, fellas. Again, he darted from the pitcher’s mound to get to this Descalso popup. In the following inning, he darted to field a ground ball heading towards first to tag out Jarrod Dyson...
... and showed all the same graceful physicality as the previous inning. Again, all these blurry faces are saying, “Uhhhh, what’s happening?” Johnny Cueto is happening. Darting was the word of the night, too, describing not just his movement on the field but the movement of his pitches.
He decided to setup his tailing 92 mph fastball with a superb, almost cosmically bending changeup at 84mph that he moved in and out and up and down on hitters. It looked like it bent away from hitters right as they decided to swing. And in the case of Alex Avila in the seventh inning, he didn’t want to swing, but he just couldn’t help it. Paul Goldschmidt even look frustrated, and there’s no evidence that Paul Goldschmidt has ever had a frustrated thought or even slight grimace cross his face in his entire perfect life.
I’ll take a return to form for Johnny Cueto. I’ll stitch that feeling into a blanket and wrap myself in it every night. He struck out 11 in 7 innings tonight, making it the fifteenth time in his career that he’s struck out double digit hitters in a game. Five of those fifteen career 10+ strikeout games have now come in a Giants uniform. If he can stay healthy and stay in a Giants uniform and stay as close to his 2016 performance as possible, his status in franchise history will be quite the interesting rise.
Congratulations to Patrick Corbin for his first career shutout. The Giants have spent $200 million dollars on their roster to make every other team look amazing, but it takes two to make a thing go right, so, were it not for Corbin being uniformly excellent tonight, we’d be talking a lot more about how it might be the case that the Giants are unfathomably bad.
Instead, Corbin spotted a fastball all over a generously low zone and changed speeds on his slider to give it all sorts of zone coverage. It helped that he’s a left-handed pitcher, as the Giants appear to be primed for one of the worst seasons in baseball history batting against left-handed pitching. He deserved the no-hitter tonight, but he was foiled by a pressing, desperate team.
Brandon Belt had a plan. He was going to prove the haters wrong and show his coaches that he can be aggressive. That he can be a man and not strikeout looking. He was going to prove that he could swing and make contact. Brandon Belt swung at all four pitches he saw tonight and it was the last one — a check swing — that somehow saved the Giants’ dignity.
That’s right. Brandon Belt saved the Giants’ dignity. If they had been no-hit tonight, they would’ve thought they had a real problem on offense. Instead, tonight they can just tip their cap and try again tomorrow without the need to shake anything up. If the Giants are going to win baseball games this season, it’s going to have to start with their pitching and it’s going to have to continue with Brandon Belt being aggressive at the plate. Half their plan worked tonight.
Honorable mentions tonight should go to Buster Posey continuing to hit the ball hard and chasing very few pitches outside of the zone and Austin Jackson for looking like he was playing a different game. He looked so lost against Corbin tonight that it’s safer to assume he was playing some sort of augmented reality game and what he was trying to hit were Pikachus or something.
Tony Watson was bound to get hit one of these games, and thankfully, it happened at the worst possible moment. Bochy will give him a redemption appearance again in this series and it will be interesting to see if the Diamondbacks simply have the Giants thoroughly scouted or if Tony Watson simply pitched in an unwinnable situation.
Evan Longoria’s injury is probably going to keep him out just long enough to put him back into a slump again upon his return until he gets enough plate appearances to get back into rhythm and at that point it will be very interesting to see where the Giants are at from a competitive standpoint. They certainly competed tonight, but as has been the case for 21 months now, they came up short.
What are we supposed to make of all this? The Giants are worse on offense than they were a season ago, and if we’re all living this mass delusion of trying to forget last season even happened, the performance on the field is making it impossible to do so. The only thing we can do right now is keep watching the Giants and spending money on the Giants.