Cueto's lapse costly in stellar Game 1 outing

Giants starter surrenders solo homer that barely goes out

Cueto's lapse costly in stellar Game 1 outing

CHICAGO -- Wrigley Field is all about history. Unfortunately for the Giants, a tiny slice of that history played a significant role Friday night in their 1-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs in their National League Division Series opener.

Javier Baez's eighth-inning homer off Johnny Cueto, which accounted for the game's scoring, lodged in the basket that lines the top of the ivy-covered, brick outfield wall. The basket protrudes outward somewhat, occasionally frustrating outfielders who reach for a deep but catchable drive -- then end up pawing at empty air when the ball settles in wire mesh instead of their glove.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 7 CHC 1, SF 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 8 CHC 5, SF 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 SF 6, CHC, 5 (13) video
Gm 4 Oct. 11 CHC 6, SF 5 video

This was one of those occasions.

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"I thought I was right there," left fielder Angel Pagan said. "But the reality is, that basket's been there for so many years. There's nothing we can do about it."

Cueto was clearly and legitimately frustrated. Until Baez connected, the right-hander had yielded two hits in 7 1/3 innings.

Asked what happened with his fateful pitch to Baez, Cueto replied through his translator, Erwin Higueros, "Nothing. He hit a home run."

Others were willing to testify to Cueto's excellence, as well as the hit that marred it.

"Johnny threw a beautiful game and [Baez] got enough of it to leave the ballpark, but what a job he did," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

"You can't say enough about what he did tonight," Giants first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He made one mistake that barely got out. You hate it for him because he pitched so well. We just wanted to scratch across that run for him and we just couldn't do it."

Baez's go-ahead home run

Cubs catcher David Ross compared Cueto favorably to Chicago's starter, Jon Lester.

"I was looking at their numbers before the game and they're really, really similar," Ross said. "You're talking about two of the guys that had to be in the top of the Cy Young [voting]. Everybody talks about Bum [Madison Bumgarner], but Cueto is pretty good."

Catcher Buster Posey said Baez hit a fastball, a pitch Cueto threw with pinpoint control all night.

"My guess is it probably finished down the middle," Posey said.

Baez's homer finished a pair of noteworthy Giants pitching streaks. They hadn't allowed a run in 21 innings, dating back to the regular-season finale against the Dodgers. Giants pitchers also owned a 23-inning scoreless streak in the postseason, extending back to the third inning of Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.

The Giants' last 1-0 loss in the postseason occurred in Game 6 of the 1987 National League Championship Series, when St. Louis' John Tudor barely bested Dave Dravecky.

This time, a different left-hander tormented the Giants, as Lester limited them to five hits in eight innings. Cueto sensed neither of them could afford a single lapse.

"We both were pitching a great ballgame," Cueto said. "Obviously we knew, we were aware that one run was going to decide the game."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for 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.