Johnny Cueto’s back everybody! Yay! He’s back! He’s back! Nevermind how he pitched tonight. The fact that he pitched at all again in 2018 is a miracle in and of itself. When it was announced that Cueto had a sprained elbow, and he was going to have Dr. James Andrews evaluate it, it was a foregone conclusion that Cueto would have Tommy John and be out until 2020. But he didn’t need surgery, and he’s pitched again in 2018. The Giants will have Cueto for the second half of the season, and that’s good news. There’s absolutely nothing bad about that. Nothing at all.
Okay, fine, he pitched like garbage tonight. He couldn’t throw his breaking pitches anywhere near the strike zone, and if he did they were hangers. His average fastball was 89 MPH, and he couldn’t throw strikes with that either. He gave up an opposite field home run to a right-hander which is hard to do at AT&T Park.
He began the second inning promisingly enough. He got Harrison Bader to pop up and Luke Weaver to hit a weak comebacker. Maybe it was going to be one of those starts that begin horribly and end like pretty okay, but then he gave up a 430-foot home run to Matt Carpenter. He didn’t give up any more runs after that, but it took him until the fifth to get through an inning without giving up an extra-base hit. He never got through an inning without allowing a runner to get into scoring position.
That first paragraph may read like it was laced with sarcasm—and it was—but there’s some truth there. It is a good thing that Cueto is back at all even if his first start since coming back from injury was less than encouraging. His breaking pitches looked sharper as the game wore on if you squint. It’s not time to panic about Cueto. Not yet. Give him another month of starts like this, and then you can freak out.
Cueto gave up four runs in the first which is one more run than the Giants scored the past three days. In Coors. It might as well have been 19-0 going into the bottom of the first. The Giants didn’t get a baserunner until
Pablo Sandoval drew a walk in the fifth the sixth inning when Gorkys Hernández beat out an infield single.
Losing a perfect game because a batter accidentally walked on three pitches would be the absolute worst way to lose a perfect game. It would beat out Armando Galarraga losing his perfect game because of an umpire beating out a bang-bang play at first. The only way it’s even close is because Galarraga lost his with two outs in the ninth. Plus, with the Galarraga game, there was the nice, human moment where Galarraga forgave Jim Joyce because it’s better to live your life with forgiveness than spite.
But with this, there’s no edifying resolution because everyone on the team screwed up. There’s no one to forgive. It takes a group hallucination to have a batter walk on three pitches. Umpires almost never lose track of the count and when they do there’s an entire team who is supposed to catch it. The Cardinals almost didn’t catch it. Luke Weaver didn’t know what the count was. Yadier Molina didn’t know what the count was. Mike Matheny didn’t know what the count was because it apparently took a call from the video room to confirm that was ball three.
Sandoval breaking up a perfect game on a three-pitch would have been a lot more interesting than what actually happened which was a normal baseball thing.
Hernández hit a slow roller to Jedd Gyorko who dove but couldn’t transition it out of his glove. That infield single meant two things: (1) Luke Weaver was not going to throw a perfect game. (2) The Giants weren’t going to have a perfect game thrown against them in front of Hugh Jackman. Can you imagine how embarrassing that would be? Ugh, I would just die.
I know this is a hot take, but it was a Good Thing the Cardinals did not throw a perfect game against the Giants tonight. There are few things that would completely ruin baseball for me. That would be one of them.
Immediately following Hernández’s single, Alen Hanson broke up Weaver’s shut-out with a majestic dinger. That was Hanson’s first home run since his game-tying home run against the Diamondbacks a month ago. In the 77 plate appearances between games with dingers, Hanson hit .233/.260/.370, and it had been over a week since his last extra base hit. Let’s hope Hanson doesn’t go another month without hitting a home run.
In Ty Blach’s first nine relief appearances since being moved to the bullpen, he was lights out. He gave up two runs in 17.1 innings including a scoreless 6.2 inning appearance to close out a 16-inning game. In his last four appearances, he has not been the same guy. In 4.2 innings, including two-thirds of an inning tonight, he has given up eight runs. Blach is nothing if not streaky. Do I think that his recent descent into the abyss means he’s broken? No. Not yet. But stretches like this are also why I don’t believe in him when he has a sub-3.00 ERA for a month.
I suppose this is another Tip Your Cap game because Luke Weaver was unhittable. But there’s something kind of sad about congratulating your opponent when they so completely decimate you. There’s an implicit “Almost had you,” in tipping your cap and this game was over before the Giants even got to the plate.