Every one of Johnny Cueto’s starts is a party. And the Giants are happy to join him on the ride, said Matt Duffy:
“He’s not taking himself too seriously, he’s not taking it all too seriously, he’s just having fun and playing his game and competing. It’s entertaining for us.”
Cueto’s grooved into a specific kind of rhythm indicative of his unique delivery style: He’s keeping it loose. He’s improvising, but doesn’t lose his focus. That rhythm continued into the Giants’ 10-1 series-sweeper over the Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday afternoon.
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park.
Bruce Bochy said this team’s grown accustomed to Cueto’s on-field shenanigans.
They had to laugh when Cueto completed an unassisted pick-off of Jonathan Villar in the first inning. Cueto sprinted toward the speedster — who has 23 stolen bases — tagged him first with his empty glove and then finally with the ball as Villar succumbed to Cueto’s persistence mid-base path. Said Gregor Blanco:
“He’s the fastest pick-off in baseball.”
Duffy chuckled after Cueto surrendered openly to a tag-out in third off his soft ground ball to Jimmy Nelson:
“Everything he does is entertaining.”
Cueto’s quirks harmonize nicely with his consistency and focus. Maintaining that rhythm is the key to his success, he’ll tell you. Bochy is amazed:
“We’re still amazed at how well he keeps his body under control with all his shimmying and locates his ball well with any pitch. That’s so impressive about what he does, he doesn’t lose focus on where he wants to throw the ball.”
More fun than his shimmies and shenanigans, perhaps, is watching him work through a familiar Brewers lineup. Cueto chugged along, dealing seven innings of one-run ball. He struck out nine, sealing his 10th win of the season and eighth straight against the Brewers — a streak dating back to his days with Milwaukee’s NL Central rival Reds. Bochy said that was just Cueto being Cueto:
“He’s hitting his spots, he’s been doing that since the start of the season. Had a good game plan, followed it…He was Johnny today.”
Cueto’s energy oozed over into the offense, who took advantage of their many base runners to secure the win, said Blanco:
“He makes the game so much fun that he inspires everyone else.”
The Giants rallied for 16 hits and, this time, didn’t leave them hanging against Jimmy Nelson (L, 5-6, 3.92 ERA). Posey continued his hot streak, going 2-for-4 with the game’s first two RBI in the third.
Matt Duffy, Joe Panik, Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan all recorded three hits, but two Giants four-run innings got a nudge from an error-prone Brewers defense.
Milwaukee incurred four on the day, including a costly throw from catcher Martin Maldonado to third on a Matt Duffy strikeout that allowed a stealing Joe Panik to scamper home.
Panik didn’t even know the ball was loose as third base coach Roberto Kelly was screaming and flailing his arms, urging him to go home.
Blanco came alive in this series against the Brewers. He broke an 0-for-27 hitless streak with a six hit series. Blanco said after Wednesday’s game that he’s battled back from a slight labrum tear in his right shoulder:
“It was affecting me for a while but now it’s better.”
The gimpy Giants are pushing through, getting the best of their traditional ‘June Swoon’ — though, it is only the 15th.
The Giants completed a 6-2 home stand and will head to Tampa Bay and then Pittsburgh with a six-game lead over the second-place Dodgers in the NL West.
Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.