SAN FRANCISCO — Johnny Cueto didn’t give up a hit in the first three innings Tuesday. He also didn’t make it out of the fifth.
The outing — 4 2/3 innings in a 4-3 loss — was the shortest of Cueto’s season. Afterward, he had trouble explaining the fifth inning. What exactly changed?
“I don’t even know myself,” he said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “It was a bad inning and I just don’t know. I don’t know what happened.”
Cueto was talking about an eight-batter stretch. He might as well have been talking about the entire second half. Coming off a series win and one of their best offensive performances of the season, the Giants went back to the sputtering ways that have become such a way of life since the All-Star break. They literally hobbled away from a date with Zack Greinke and the Diamondbacks.
Sergio Romo tweaked his knee on a tumbling tag at first in the ninth, but Bruce Bochy said the right-hander checked out fine. Denard Span wasn’t so lucky. A stiff neck that bothered him earlier in the season kept him from finishing this game. Span, who had trigger injections in the neck in July, was pulled in the seventh.
“This neck thing has come up before … there’s got to be a little bit of concern,” Bochy said.
The Giants are the picture of health compared to the West-leading Dodgers and other contenders like the Mets and Pirates, but they are still pretty banged-up. Angel Pagan cruised into second on a liner that looked like a sure triple, and Bochy later said Pagan’s hamstring has been tight. Buster Posey has not publicly disclosed any significant injuries, but team officials have hinted that Posey is nowhere near 100 percent and it certainly looked that way when he momentarily signaled a bunt with runners on base.
Still, the Giants are more than healthy enough to beat up on a team like the Diamondbacks. Greinke changes the math, though, and he improved to 4-0 with a 1.66 ERA in six starts at AT&T Park. He’s 9-1 all-time against the Giants, who tried to sign him in November.
They ended up with Jeff Samardzija and Cueto, who has been a godsend but has also had a rough second half at times. Four of Cueto's five shortest starts have come since he started the All-Star Game.
Cueto didn’t get much help, but some is on the way. Privately, some in the organization note that Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker had a huge hand in the first half success. Parker is back on the roster and scored a run in the ninth to cut the deficit to two. The energy he showed after getting drilled by a Daniel Hudson fastball has been missing from this team in recent weeks. Williamson will return when rosters expand Sept. 1.
There is more help on the way, mostly in the way of relief arms. But the Giants won’t go anywhere without their franchise bats and big-money arms. They left nine on base Tuesday, hitting into two double plays in the final three innings. The end result was familiar, but Posey said the team will continue to take the same approach. Come back the next day and try to turn it around.
“I’m sure you get tired of hearing that,” he said. “But we get tired of hearing the questions too, sometimes.”