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Cueto susceptible to HRs in return; bats stymied

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Thursday was an evening of false starts for the Giants, from Johnny Cueto's first outing in approximately two months to the slumping hitters' futile efforts to get started offensively.

The combination resulted in an 11-2 setback to the Cardinals at AT&T Park that extended the Giants' skid to four games. During that streak, San Francisco has hit .132 while scoring five runs.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Thursday was an evening of false starts for the Giants, from Johnny Cueto's first outing in approximately two months to the slumping hitters' futile efforts to get started offensively.

The combination resulted in an 11-2 setback to the Cardinals at AT&T Park that extended the Giants' skid to four games. During that streak, San Francisco has hit .132 while scoring five runs.

View Full Game Coverage

Recovered from the elbow inflammation that prompted fears of Tommy John surgery, Cueto allowed five runs and 10 hits in five innings. His typically lively fastball never exceeded 92 mph, helping the Cardinals surge ahead 5-0 after two frames on Jedd Gyorko's three-run, first-inning homer and Matt Carpenter's second-inning long ball.

"Instead of pitching, I was trying to place the ball in the strike zone," Cueto explained his first-inning woes through an interpreter.

Video: STL@SF: Bochy on Cueto's start, Holland's 'pen debut

Giants manager Bruce Bochy pointed out that Cueto followed Carpenter's homer with 2 1/3 shutout innings. But Bochy wouldn't guarantee that Cueto, who the Giants are pinning their postseason hopes upon as their No. 2 starter, will regain full effectiveness before the regular season concludes. 

"It's hard to say," Bochy said. "We'll have a better idea in the next start or two."

Cueto was more upbeat.

"I'm happy with what I did today," Cueto said. "I just have to keep working hard back to where I was."

For the second day in a row, a relatively anonymous starting pitcher limited San Francisco to two hits in eight innings. This time, it was St. Louis' Luke Weaver, who matched the performance of Colorado's Tyler Anderson on Wednesday.

"A couple of runs and a couple of hits -- that's not going to work," Bochy said, referring to his club's offensive production.

Weaver maintained a perfect game for 5 1/3 innings until Gorkys Hernandez reached on an infield single. A reporter mentioned to Bochy that Weaver entered the game with a 5.16 ERA, suggesting that the Giants should have hit more fruitfully.

Video: STL@SF: Hernandez singles for Giants' 1st hit in 6th

This led Bochy to praise Weaver: "He had a good fastball and changeup, and he mixed them with the breaking ball."

Despite averaging a healthy 4.8 runs per game at home entering Thursday, the Giants watched their streak of consecutive innings without an extra-base hit reach 23 before Alen Hanson delivered a two-run homer in the sixth. Of Hanson's 36 hits, 20 have gone for extra bases.

Video: STL@SF: Hanson homers to put Giants on scoreboard

SOUND SMART
Derek Holland's 3 1/3-inning relief stint was his first appearance out of the bullpen this year. Holland recorded three relief outings last season with the White Sox and has 25 in his career. Cueto's activation from the disabled list forced Holland from the rotation to the bullpen.

Video: STL@SF: Holland K's Pena for 7th strikeout of outing

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Pablo Sandoval smartly flipped away his bat and headed for first base after taking a pitch that missed the strike zone with two outs in the fifth inning. The only problem? It was ball three, not four. Sandoval didn't immediately make himself available for interviews after the game, but he obviously didn't feel self-conscious following his harmless faux pas. After returning to the batter's box, he unleashed a mighty swing at Weaver's next pitch but fouled it off. On the 12th pitch of the at-bat, he struck out. More >

Video: STL@SF: Weaver K's Sandoval after count confusion

UP NEXT
The Giants will turn to rookie Dereck Rodriguez (3-1, 3.16 ERA) at 7:15 p.m. PT on Friday. That's not a bad thing: They've won the right-hander's last four outings. Rodriguez will look to start July the same way he pitched all of June, a month in which he posted a 3.21 ERA, struck out 29 and walked just eight batters over 33 2/3 innings. St. Louis counters with John Gant.

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.

San Francisco Giants, Johnny Cueto