SAN FRANCISCO -- Ultimately, Johnny Cueto's complete-game performance Thursday night in the Giants' 6-2 victory over St. Louis was defined less by the innings when he dominated the Cardinals and more by the stretches when he struggled with them.
Cueto began the game with an eight-pitch perfect inning, his first of seven 1-2-3 frames. But after Hunter Pence lined a two-run homer in the Giants' half of the first, St. Louis mustered a run apiece in the third and fourth innings to tie the score.
That's when Cueto demonstrated his true resolve. After Jedd Gyorko hit a two-out RBI single in the third, Cueto ended the threat by striking out Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis' No. 3 hitter. One inning later, the Cardinals scored the tying run and put men on the corners with just one out. Cueto responded by coaxing Kolten Wong's popup and striking out opposing pitcher Adam Wainwright.
The rest was relatively simple for Cueto, who retired the final 17 batters he faced to record his National League-leading fifth complete game.
"That's a good point," said Giants catcher Buster Posey, who went 4-for-5 and scored a run scored. "He was able to limit the damage there. It could have gotten out of hand a little bit."
Instead, Cueto (16-5) maintained control, reaching 94 mph with his fastball as late as the ninth inning when he fired one of those past Brandon Moss.
"I felt like I had more energy," Cueto said.
This didn't surprise Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
"That's what the good starters do," Bochy said. "They're good closers."
Cueto, a .106 hitter, also received praise from all corners of the Giants clubhouse for driving in what proved to be the winning run with a fourth-inning sacrifice fly.
Taking all facets of Cueto's game into consideration, including his nine innings and his ability to handle a bat, Cueto sounded like a throwback, the kind of multidimensional starting pitcher that dominated baseball in bygone eras.
"He's a guy who can handle the load, the innings, the work," Bochy said.
Cueto defeated the estimable Wainwright for the second time this season, duplicating a 5-1 Giants triumph on June 3 at St. Louis. Cueto exceeded the 200-inning level for the fourth time in his career while the Giants improved to 21-9 in his starts.
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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.