SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants lost their fourth consecutive game Saturday night, but manager Bruce Bochy's biggest concern isn't his team's losing skid. Instead, it's the right arm of Johnny Cueto.Cueto exited the 7-1 loss to the Brewers after a season-low four innings and just 61 pitches. He wasn't hit
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants lost their fourth consecutive game Saturday night, but manager Bruce Bochy's biggest concern isn't his team's losing skid. Instead, it's the right arm of Johnny Cueto.
Cueto exited the 7-1 loss to the Brewers after a season-low four innings and just 61 pitches. He wasn't hit particularly hard -- only one of the eight hits he allowed was for extra bases -- but he struggled with his velocity. Cueto's fastball, which has averaged 90.1 mph this season, dropped to 88.5 mph Saturday.
Bochy acknowledged that Cueto, who was one of the best pitchers in baseball throughout April, was without his best stuff.
"I've got to be honest, sure, there's concern there for Johnny," Bochy said. "We know how good he is, and he's just not quite there."
Cueto opened the season with five straight quality starts and had a 0.84 ERA before he was placed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation May 2. He's yet to record a quality start in four outings since his return July 5 and he offered a troubling explanation.
"It's very difficult, it's very hard to get loose," Cueto said. "I feel really bad. I surely want to try to help the team. I want to go out there like a warrior and give my best. But I keep telling you guys and telling myself that I'm fine, but in reality I'm not. I just feel sad that I can't help and it's very difficult every time I go out there."
This is chilling to hear from Cueto, who acknowledged the constant pain he feels with every pitch is the same pain in his elbow that sidelined him for over two months this season and required an opinion from renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Bochy admitted thinking Cueto may have been destined for Tommy John surgery earlier this season.
"Every time I throw a pitch it bothers me," said Cueto, who allowed four hits interrupted only by Jhoulys Chacin's sacrifice bunt in the Brewers' three-run second inning Saturday..
Cueto will meet with doctors Sunday to determine his next step.
Punctuated by the harrowing news from their talented right-hander, Saturday night was one big step backward for the Giants. Their sixth loss in eight games since the All-Star break has them a season-high 7 1/2 games back in the National League West, and they're now potentially without a crucial member of the starting rotation for the foreseeable future.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In the sixth inning, Nick Hundley broke up Chacin's no-hitter with his ninth home run of the season. Less than one week ago, Hundley ended Sean Manaea's perfect game in Oakland on Sunday with a fifth-inning single.
Joe Panik has missed the last 16 games with a left groin strain. He began a rehab stint for Triple-A Sacramento on Thursday, going 2-for-6 in his first two games. Panik played nine innings Saturday.
"We'll see how he gets through it and see where he's at," Bochy said.
Bochy doesn't think Brandon Belt, who has yet to resume baseball activities after sustaining a hyperextended right knee, will need a rehab assignment.
Said Bochy, "I doubt it right now with how soon he comes off the DL."
Andrew McCutchen hit leadoff Saturday, for the first time since August 2011. It was part of Bochy's decision to shake up the Giants lineup, which also had Brandon Crawford batting third for the first time all season.
HE SAID IT
"This is baseball. You go through these stages where it looks like you can't do anything wrong and the bloopers are falling in for you and you might get a break on an error. Well, we're on the other side of that right now. And that's just a part of the game that you have to deal with. It's not easy, trust me. These guys have a lot of pride and for these guys to lose these tough games and to play like we did today, it's not easy. It's not fun to watch, I get it. But you've got to keep going and believe you're going to come out of this and it's going to get better. I keep saying it's going to get better and I know it will. We've just got to get this thing turned around as soon as we can." -- Bochy
Andrew Suarez (3-6, 3.99 ERA) went 5 2/3 innings and took a no-decision against Seattle in his last outing, giving up three runs on eight hits. It was the first time in the rookie's young career that he walked more (two) than he struck out (one). Also uncharacteristic for the left-hander, Suarez saw the Mariners elevate his pitches; they hit 13 fly balls, the most against Suarez this season. He'll look to regain his ground-ball tendencies at AT&T Park on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. PT. The Brewers counter with right-hander Junior Guerra (6-6, 3.13 ERA).
Martin Oppegaard is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @MartinOppegaard.