SAN FRANCISCO — There were many positive words said about Johnny Cueto in the hour after his 10th win. Bruce Bochy, in the midst of a longer answer, put it rather perfectly and succinctly.
“He was Johnny today,” Bochy said.
In 10 weeks Giants fans have already come to know what that means. Dominance and depth on the mound and the usual array of funky deliveries and smiles and quirks. On Wednesday, Cueto threw in a dash of fire in his seven innings, roaring with delight after his final out, which was also his ninth strikeout.
It would have been hard to tell at that point that Cueto was protecting a massive lead, but this one was a blowout. The Giants won 10-1, finishing 6-2 on a homestand that included the Red Sox and Dodgers.
Johnny was Johnny, but in sweeping the bumbling Brewers, the Giants found a checklist of other positives. Joe Panik reached five times Wednesday and Matt Duffy had three hits in his new No. 5 spot. Buster Posey was 8-for-12 in the series and even swiped a couple of bases on double-steals.
“With our offense, at the top of the order, guys are kind of going to have to set the tone,” Panik said. “In this series that has kind of been the case. Hopefully we keep it going. This is more of the team we think we are.”
The Giants hit double-digits Wednesday without Brandon Belt (who has hardly any swelling left in his foot and should start Friday) and Hunter Pence and Denard Span.
Gregor Blanco filled in ably for the other two, getting three hits and leading off both four-run rallies with a run. After the game, Blanco admitted that he had a cortisone shot in a right shoulder that has been bothering him for a month. He didn’t want to use that as an excuse for a 3-for-32 slump, but it’s easy to connect the dots.
Still, when Blanco came to the ballpark on Wednesday he got a surprise. Bochy reached into his bag of motivational tricks and put his slumping outfielder in the leadoff spot. He thought that might please Blanco, who has hit first quite a bit in the past, and maybe help get him going. Bochy was right.
“I love it, man,” Blanco said. “I feel more like myself every time I can be in the leadoff spot. It’s a lot more fun for me. It was awesome. As soon as I saw myself in the lineup as the leadoff hitter, I said, ‘Yeah!’ It was a lot of fun.”
The move jolted Blanco, who will be a key with Pence out. Cueto didn’t need a jolt, but he got one early on anyway. Speedy Jonathan Villar singled to lead off the game and Cueto caught him leaning toward second. He broke straight for Villar and pushed him down with his glove before tagging him.
“It was pretty fun to watch,” Panik said. “We all know Johnny is pretty athletic for a pitcher. He’s got quick feet.”
Cueto retired seven of the next 12 hitters via strikeout. The middle innings were a bit rockier, but when Cueto ended one more strikeout in the seventh, he reached back and got Villar for the second time, stranding runners on the corners. In an 8-1 game, Cueto yelled approvingly and then twice pumped his fist.
“That’s how you have to pitch,” he said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “I told myself it was a tie game. You have to pitch like that. These are the big leagues. I’ve seen in the big leagues that with two outs a team can score seven or eight runs. You can’t just fall asleep and relax.”
The rest of the Giants appreciated that attitude. It’s the same trait that has carried them through three Octobers, and Cueto was out there fighting for every inch on a sunny day in the middle of June.
“He was definitely fun to watch,” Panik said.