SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Belt wasted no time making the case for his Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote candidacy Wednesday night, shooting an RBI triple off the arcade in right field at AT&T Park in the bottom of the first as part of a two-run inning. That created an early cushion for Johnny Cueto, who shut down the Rockies for nine innings as the Giants clinched their Major League-best 54th win with a 5-1 victory.
Cueto, who was named to his second All-Star team Tuesday, became the National League leader in wins (13) with the result. He pitched like an All-Star, too, allowing just one earned run and striking out eight while giving a struggling Giants bullpen the night off.
"I was telling [Santiago] Casilla yesterday that I hadn't thrown a complete game in a while, so I guess it's time to throw one," Cueto said.
Cueto grew stronger as the game wore on Wednesday. Only one Rockies player reached base safely after the fourth inning.
"What a great first half he's had," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, adding that Cueto's made a case to be the NL's All-Star Game starter. "He's an artist out there. He's got command of four pitches. He's just a special pitcher."
"He's not going to overpower you, but whenever he needs something to change your vision, he will hit his spots," said Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who went 2-for-3. "He will keep you out of balance with the different types of moves he has -- he's dancing out there."
The Rockies, who continue to struggle offensively, have now lost seven of their last eight games and back-to-back series to the Giants. Jorge De La Rosa pitched seven formidable innings but got little help, as the Rockies totaled just five hits.
"He's one of the best pitchers in the game," said De La Rosa, who lost both of his starts during the Rockies' 1-5 road trip despite allowing just five runs in 14 innings. "I just had to keep the game close and wait until the guys start swinging the bats."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Base knocks from Brandons: The Giants' bats went to work early against De La Rosa. Following a Grant Green walk, Belt, the NL's Esurance Final Vote leader, skied a shot off the bottom of the right field arcade for an RBI triple in the bottom of the first. Two at-bats later, Brandon Crawford lined a single to center field to score Belt and give Cueto and the Giants a 2-0 lead. More >
"De La Rosa was tough," Bochy said. "I thought we would have to scratch and claw for runs, so it was nice getting two runs early, just to give Johnny a cushion."
#StoryTime hustle: Esurance Final Vote candidate Trevor Story grounded into a double play in the second and nearly did the same in the fourth. However, Story's hustle beat the throw, and he ended up with an RBI. More >
Posey lifts one to left: With the Giants clinging to a one-run lead in the sixth inning, Buster Posey provided some necessary insurance for Cueto. The now four-time All-Star connected on a 1-1 pitch and smashed it into the left-field bleachers for his team-best 11th home run to put the Giants ahead, 3-1. Posey has hit .390 with 13 RBIs and three home runs in his last 22 games.
On another night: De La Rosa gave up two runs in the first and seemed to teeter in the second, but with two on base, he ended the frame by forcing Angel Pagan into a double-play grounder. Posey's homer was the only other run De La Rosa allowed. Since losing his form early on and making a trip to the bullpen to repair his motion, De La Rosa has gone 3-2 with a 2.61 ERA.
"'De La' has done an outstanding job since coming back from the bullpen," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He looks like the 'De La' of old, and he's giving us a chance to win every time out."
"He reminds me of a riverboat gambler, he's in such control out there with his body, with his pitches, and he's not afraid of anything." -- Bochy on Cueto
"We want to finish strong going home. I think we're set up pretty well to do that. The Phillies are a young club that's playing well but we've got to finish strong." -- Weiss on a four-game set with the Phillies, starting Thursday, that will take the Rockies into the All-Star break
WHAT'S NEXT Rockies: While righty Chad Bettis has been up and down this year, the Rockies are 4-1 in his last five starts. He'll face the Phillies on Thursday at Coors Field at 6:40 p.m. MT.
Giants:Jeff Samardzija will be on the mound for the Giants when they host a three-game series against the Arizona D-backs Friday at 7:15 p.m. PT. In his last outing, which came against the D-backs, Samardzija pitched 7 1/3 innings and allowed four earned runs. The Giants have won six of their last seven games against Arizona.