LOS ANGELES -- Johnny Cueto's contract with the Giants expires after the 2021 season. There's no telling what he has in store until then.Cueto's effort in the Giants' 1-0 victory Friday over the Los Angeles Dodgers may have merely hinted at his capabilities. In his first start of the season,
LOS ANGELES -- Johnny Cueto's contract with the Giants expires after the 2021 season. There's no telling what he has in store until then.
Cueto's effort in the Giants' 1-0 victory Friday over the Los Angeles Dodgers may have merely hinted at his capabilities. In his first start of the season, having established no rhythm or consistency during Spring Training, Cueto harnessed both qualities immediately.
The right-hander maintained a perfect game for six innings until Chris Taylor served a soft single to right-center field leading off the seventh. Cueto left the game after finishing the seventh, but his mastery was complete. He needed every bit of it to fend off Dodgers starter Alex Wood, who allowed nothing but Brandon Crawford's fifth-inning infield single in eight innings.
Did Cueto believe he could throw a no-hitter?
"I wasn't even thinking about that," he said.
That reflected the clarity of thought Cueto has enjoyed since Spring Training began. Unlike last year, he didn't have to dwell on family concerns, health issues or whether to participate in the World Baseball Classic.
"I've had peace of mind," Cueto said.
He definitely had it on the mound against the Dodgers.
"Cueto executed tonight," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "Just missed barrels, kept us off-balance. The thing with Cueto, if you don't get baserunners and don't get him in the stretch, that's when he's at his best. He keeps you off your timing with that thing in his delivery. Woody, to his credit, outpitched him. Went eight innings. Stuff was really good, unfortunately, we couldn't support him."
Dominant as he was, Cueto needed defensive help, particularly in the second inning. Cody Bellinger led off with a grounder that nearly crossed up San Francisco's overshifted infield, but third baseman Evan Longoria, essentially playing second base, rushed in to scoop up the ball and make a strong throw to first.
The next batter, Yasmani Grandal, smashed a buckling liner to left field. Hunter Pence appeared to pursue uncertainly, but he made the catch after executing a brief spin.
This game marked the fourth time in Cueto's career that he pitched at least seven innings while allowing one hit or fewer.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.