ATLANTA -- Even after a grueling 13-month rehab, Johnny Cueto showed little signs of rust in his first two starts after returning from Tommy John surgery. He opened his 2019 campaign with a combined 10 scoreless innings for the Giants, prompting manager Bruce Bochy to remark that he already looked like the Cueto of old.
But Cueto did not look like himself on Saturday.
The 33-year-old veteran lacked his usual pinpoint command in his third start of the season, issuing five walks while allowing four runs over four innings in the Giants’ 8-1 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park.
“Johnny rarely, rarely ever beats himself,” Bochy said. “It’s fair to say he did that tonight.”
Cueto walked four of the first 10 batters he faced, including three in the Braves’ four-run second inning.
A pair of free passes to Francisco Cervelli and Dansby Swanson put runners on first and second with one out for Billy Hamilton, who doubled to put Atlanta on the board. Left-hander Max Fried followed with an RBI groundout, and Ronald Acuña Jr. drew a two-out walk to keep the rally alive. Adeiny Hechavarría capped the inning with a two-run double to left field, staking the Braves to a 4-0 lead.
“I felt good,” Cueto said in Spanish. “I felt strong, but a lot of times when I threw the ball, I yanked it toward first. It was a bad start.”
Cueto rebounded to post a 1-2-3 third and worked around a one-out walk to Hamilton to record a scoreless fourth. He departed after throwing 78 pitches, only 39 of which were strikes.
“I was a little surprised, to be honest,” Bochy said of Cueto’s command issues. “He’s been so good to this point. But with that said, I thought he pitched very well beside the one inning. That’s the one that got him.”
Despite the disappointing result, Cueto said he continues to feel fine physically. He held the Braves to two hits and averaged 92 mph on his fastball, a sign of the arm strength he developed over the course of his arduous rehab. Cueto is scheduled to make one more start for the Giants next week before shutting it down for the winter, though he plans to work hard over the offseason to ensure that he arrives at Spring Training next year in optimal shape.
After being shut out, 6-0, in Friday’s series opener, the Giants were again quiet with the bats on Saturday. They were blanked through the first six innings before Kevin Pillar singled, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Cristhian Adames in the seventh, snapping their 15-inning scoreless streak.
The Giants have been outscored 14-1 over the first two games of this series. Saturday’s defeat dropped San Francisco to 74-81 on the season, ensuring that Bochy will not have a winning record in his final season as manager.
“At this stage, you see it coming,” Bochy said. “We were hoping for a winning season. We were so close there, and then we stumbled. Got nicked up, banged up. We’re playing a really good club now. We knew we had our hands full, but you hate to get beat like this. Hopefully we bounce back tomorrow.”