The former Red continued his career-long mastery of Milwaukee, allowing one run on six hits in seven sharp innings for a winning San Francisco debut, a 2-1 Giants victory over the Brewers on Tuesday at Miller Park.
In beginning his six-year, $130 million contract with a win, Cueto lowered his lifetime ERA against the Brewers to 2.79 in 19 starts. He bested Brewers right-hander Jimmy Nelson, who scattered five hits in 7 1/3 innings and surrendered two runs, on Brandon Crawford's solo home run in the third inning and Matt Duffy's go-ahead fielder's choice in the third.
"Cueto's good," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "To me it's kind of a little reinvention, of really disrupting hitters' timing with different deliveries and different windups. But it's effective."
Asked whether he placed any extra emphasis on his first regular-season start as a Giant, Cueto said, "Why should I feel any type of pressure? It was just another game."
Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla preserved the lead to move the Giants to the brink of a season-opening sweep. The Giants won their first one-run game after going 19-28 in them last year.
"This was the type of game that we're going to be involved in quite a bit, particularly in our division," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Deflection dejection: The Giants scored the go-ahead run with an assist from the baseball gods. With two runners aboard and nobody out in the fourth inning, and the score tied at 1, Hunter Pence hit a comebacker that deflected off Nelson's glove for an infield hit. After Brandon Belt popped out, Duffy hit into a run-scoring groundout to give the visitors a one-run lead.
"It was probably right at [second baseman] Scooter [Gennett] for a double play, but it is just reaction," Nelson said. "It was a tough break type of thing." More >
Getting away with one: The Giants didn't execute perfectly on a third-inning play, but they were effective enough. With Jonathan Villar on third base and one out, Domingo Santana hit a grounder directly to shortstop Crawford, whose throw home veered to the first-base side of home plate. But catcher Buster Posey wheeled around in time to tag out Villar, who tried to touch the plate with his left hand.
"We're going contact there," Counsell said. "Crawford made an exceptional play. It was not an easy ball. It was a ball to his left, and he made a really nice play."
Big whiff: They say you have to get to the top pitchers early or you won't get to them at all -- and the Brewers had their early chances. Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter opened the second inning with singles, but Ramon Flores grounded into a run-scoring double play and Aaron Hill grounded out. In the third, despite Villar being cut down at the plate, the Brewers put runners at the corners with two outs for Ryan Braun, who struck out.
Great eight: Nelson didn't throw a pitch past the seventh inning of any of his final 15 starts last season, but he did so on Tuesday in his season debut. Nelson, in fact, entered the eighth at just 82 pitches, and shortstop Villar rewarded his pitcher by making a terrific diving catch to take a hit from Angel Pagan to open the frame.
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Cueto became the first Dominican-born pitcher to win a start for the Giants since right-hander Sergio Valdez beat the Rockies on Sept. 21, 1995.
WHAT'S NEXT Giants: Manager Bruce Bochy's club has two reasons to look forward to Wednesday's series finale. For one thing, it marks the regular-season Giants debut for right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who signed a five-year, $90 million contract during the offseason. In addition, the game ends San Francisco's mini-season-opening trip. The Giants begin a four-game home series against the archrival Dodgers on Thursday.
Brewers: Wednesday was supposed to mark the start of Matt Garza's comeback bid, but he landed on the disabled list on Tuesday with a strained lat, so Taylor Jungmann will start at 12:40 p.m. CT instead. Jungmann will be working on regular rest and beginning his first full Major League season after spending the final four months of 2015 with Milwaukee.