Without Pence, Giants ride Cueto to victory

Without Pence, Giants ride Cueto to victory

ST. LOUIS -- Responding to the challenge of thriving without premier run producer Hunter Pence, the San Francisco Giants relied on offensive flurries in the fourth and ninth innings, which complemented typically strong pitching by Johnny Cueto and five relievers Friday night in a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

In fact, except for a third-inning throwing error by first baseman Brandon Belt on a toss that Cueto probably could have caught, the Giants played mistake-free defense. Cueto took care of the rest.

Earlier Friday, the Giants announced that Pence, who leads the Giants with 36 RBIs, likely will undergo surgery to remove a right hamstring tendon that could sideline him for eight weeks. The Giants responded by stringing together four second-inning singles, including run-scoring hits by Belt and Brandon Crawford before staging another uprising in the ninth. That featured Denard Span's two-run, bases-loaded single and Matt Duffy's run-scoring sacrifice bunt.

"We've got to pick it up a notch and get more timely hits," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Span's two-run single

Lacking Pence and left fielder Angel Pagan, who's probably at least a week away from returning from an injured left hamstring, Duffy essentially said the best offense is a good defense.

"That's definitely one way we can go about it," the third baseman said. "I think the biggest thing overall is not giving other teams extra opportunities, extra outs."

Though Cueto (9-1) felt somewhat sluggish -- "It just wasn't my day today," he said -- the right-hander still had enough to win his sixth consecutive decision while allowing an unearned run and four hits in six innings. San Francisco's bullpen blanked St. Louis through the final three innings to seal the Giants' 18th victory in 22 games. The Giants improved to 5-3 on their three-city trip, clinching no worse than a .500 record on their 10-game sojourn.

Cueto earns win

Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright delivered a respectable seven-inning performance but faltered in the fourth.

Wainwright felt his worst pitch of the night was the single he gave up to Buster Posey, but remained positive about the start as a whole.

"I was very confident," Wainwright said. "I'm happy with where I'm at and I've just got to keep going. I hate to give up the lead, but they're going to beat you with singles sometimes. It's rare you get beat with singles, but tonight we did because their guys did a great job pitching."

Trevor Rosenthal walked three batters in the ninth, and all three ended up scoring to give the Giants a cushion. It was the third time Rosenthal had given up two runs or more in 19 appearances this season.

"We just need to get him right and use him to help us win a game, and that was the situation we were in," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We get him extra work in a game like that because we're right there and we feel we're going to be able to come back and do something in the ninth if we can shut it down."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Crawford's cookin': The RBI single Crawford stroked in the fourth inning was no accident. He's 12-for-34 (.353) with eight RBIs in his last 10 games. It's easy to overlook that Crawford thrived in May, driving in 23 runs to tie Washington's Daniel Murphy for the NL's third-highest total.

Crawford's RBI single

Grichuk's gaffe: Randal Grichuk came to the plate after Matt Holliday walked, Stephen Piscotty singled home Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams drew another walk to load the bases in the third inning. Grichuk fought off two pitches and watched another ball to push the count full. Cueto threw another ball nearly in the dirt, which fooled Grichuk, and he hit a weak dribbler toward the mound. Cueto fielded it cleanly and threw to first base to end the threat.

"It was a good at-bat," Matheny said. "I mean, he's facing one of the better pitchers in the league right now and I thought he had a nice idea. It's not one of those glaring situations that we failed on. He got in there and fought, but just couldn't put the hits together against him."

A Buster bunt? Almost: Aware of the need for an extra run, Posey squared around to bunt in the eighth inning after Panik and Duffy singled to put runners on first and second with nobody out.

"He would have had to put it in a pretty good place," Duffy jokingly said, referring to Posey's less-than-blazing speed. Posey ultimately struck out.

Good start spoiled: After losing his first three decisions, Wainwright had won his last five and the Cardinals came down on the winning side in his last seven outings. Both streaks came to an end Friday, but St. Louis' ace still put together an admirable appearance. He has now gone seven innings in consecutive starts for the first time this year and struck out a season-high six batters Friday night. It marked the second time in 12 starts this season that Wainwright allowed fewer than three runs.

Wainwright's effective start

"It's not disappointing, it's what you expect when you go up against really good pitchers and really good teams," Wainwright said. " It's going to be tough. We could very easily be standing here 1-0 today; I thought I had stuff good enough to hold them to zeros today."

WHAT'S NEXT
Giants: Right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who will confront St. Louis in Saturday's rematch starting at 4:15 p.m. PT, is coming off his shortest outing of the season. He worked five innings on Monday at Atlanta, yielding all of the Braves' runs in a 5-3 Giants loss. The Shark owns a 3-2 record with a 3.86 ERA in eight career starts against the Cardinals.

Cardinals: Michael Wacha will look to get back on track after five losses in six starts in May. The right-hander has lost six straight decisions, tied for the longest streak in the Major Leagues this season, but is 1-0 with a 0.47 ERA in three career regular-season starts against the Giants. First pitch is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. CT.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

Nick Krueger is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.