SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy called off batting practice on Thursday to give his flatlining lineup a break. Johnny Cueto found a similar way to help out the struggling bullpen.
Cueto went the distance in the first of four crucial games against the Cardinals, throwing just 105 pitches to carry the Giants to a 6-2 win. They picked up a full game on the Dodgers — who lost in Phoenix — and the Cardinals, and added a half-game to the lead over the Mets.
Bochy thought the lineup looked tired while getting swept by the Padres. He told players to arrive late Thursday and the early returns were positive. Buster Posey lined a single with two outs in the first and Hunter Pence followed with a smash into the seats in left.
Cueto needed just 18 pitches to get through the first two innings, but he gave the lead back over the next two. Jedd Gyorko’s double got the Cardinals on the board in the third. Three consecutive hits tied the game in the fourth, and the Giants lucked out when Johnny Peralta was held at third and subsequently stranded.
Adam Wainwright, who is having a down year, couldn’t hold on, and he got burned by a peculiar decision. With two on in the fourth and one out, the Cardinals intentionally walked Denard Span, who has struggled so badly in September that he was dropped seven spots in the lineup. Cueto immediately made them pay by hitting a fly to right that was deep enough to score a run. Angel Pagan’s single made it 4-2. Span’s two-run single in the seventh extended the lead.
Cueto recovered from the brief wobble to get back on a direct line to a complete game. He retired the final 17 batters he faced and sat at 94 mph in the ninth.
Starting pitching report: Cueto and Madison Bumgarner had been tied for the NL lead with four complete games. The right-hander is now tied with Chris Sale for the Major League lead.
Bullpen report: Take the night off, boys.
At the plate: Posey had his 16th career four-hit game.
In the field: Brandon Crawford made a leaping catch in the first to help Cueto get going.
Attendance: The Giants announced a crowd of 41,210 human beings who should know that Joe Panik’s homer off Wainwright in 2014 is underrated.
Up next: Matt Moore will face the Cardinals for the first time. A right-hander named Luke Weaver goes for St. Louis.