Cueto shakes off nightmare 1st for gritty win

Giants right-hander allows five runs in opening frame before settling down

April 11th, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO -- Perhaps only in a series against the Dodgers could Giants fans tune in one minute to see Johnny Cueto limping and struggling to get outs and then check in a couple of hours later to see the same guy walking off to a standing ovation after polishing off seven innings en route to the Giants' 9-6 win.

As bad as the first inning of Cueto's AT&T Park debut went, it could have been so much worse. For one thing, he stayed in the game.

After slipping while attempting to back up catcher Buster Posey on a throw home from right field, Cueto got up and walked with a slight limp.

His knee and back hurt, but he was good enough after tossing some practice pitches ... and then proceeded to give up a five-spot to the rival Dodgers in what was a nightmare inning for the prized offseason free-agent pickup that brought the ballpark sound down to gasps.

Things slowly improved: his back and his knee, and most importantly to Cueto, the game. He allowed 10 hits and two walks while striking out eight to improve to 2-0.

"It's part of the game," Cueto said. "My teammates said, 'Just keep the game at 5-0 and we'll take care of the rest. And that's exactly what I did."

Cueto became the first Giants pitcher to earn a win after allowing five or more runs in the first inning since Ryan Jensen on June 27, 2002.

The first frame started with Cueto hitting leadoff hitter Chase Utley. It only got worse.

Adrian Gonzalez hit a sacrifice fly. Yasiel Puig walked. Joc Pederson singled. Trayce Thompson hit a two-RBI single. Austin Barnes rapped a run-scoring bunt single.

By the time Utley came around again and notched the third out, Giants reliever Chris Heston was up in the bullpen pretty much warmed up.

But Cueto stayed in the game.

"For him to go seven innings tells you a couple of things," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It tells you how tough he is. And he's a pro. ... He was just a different pitcher after the first inning."

Added Joe Panik, who sealed Cueto's win with his two-run tiebreaking double: "Johnny did a great job of settling down and really keeping us in the game."