Johnny Cueto was in a tight spot. He had runners on first and third, two out in the seventh inning and Brewers leadoff hitter Jonathan Villar at the plate. With the count full, Cueto threw a changeup that Villar swung at and missed. The Giants right-hander pumped a fist, tucked cap and glove under his left arm and strutted slowly back to the Giants’ dugout, barking to himself all the way.
By that reaction, it might have been a critical pitch in a close game. Actually, the Giants led by seven runs at the time, en route to a 10-1 victory and a three-game sweep of the Brewers at AT&T Park.
“That’s Johnny,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s (Madison) Bumgarner; it’s all of them (pitchers). Men on base, they’re going to be fired up when they get the third out.”
It was the last out recorded Wednesday afternoon by Cueto, who held Milwaukee to one run in seven innings while striking out nine to become the fourth 10-game winner this season in the National League. The Giants recorded their fifth series sweep of the season while winning six of eight games on the homestand.
Cueto is the sixth San Francisco Giants pitcher – the first since Jason Schmidt in 2004 – to win 10 of his first 14 starts in a season. The Giants are 12-2 when he takes the mound.
“I saw a great effort from the start, hitting his spots,” Bochy said. “He really has a good game plan and he followed it, had good secondary pitches, he went up and down (in the strike zone). He was Johnny today. He did a great job.”
The Brewers, meanwhile, were sloppy. They committed four errors, three on poor throws and another on a missed catch. A reliever threw a wild pitch on his first pitch of the game and Villar was picked off first base in the first inning by Cueto.
Villar, who leads the majors with 23 stolen bases, took off for second base before Cueto had started his move. Cueto whipped around, sprinted toward Villar and applied the tag – first hitting Villar with his empty glove – with the ball in his pitching hand.
“I turned to the umpire,” said third baseman Matt Duffy, “and said, ‘That’s one way to do it.’ ”
“He’s quicker than you think,” mused Bochy.
Milwaukee’s miscues were help the Giants hardly needed as they collected 16 hits. Joe Panik, Gregor Blanco, Duffy and Angel Pagan each had three. Buster Posey added two hits and two RBIs to finish the series 8 for 12.
“To see Buster get going the way he did was a really good sign,” Duffy said. “I think a lot of us feed off of him, look up to him, and when he’s putting together the at-bats that he did this series, that’s big for everybody. He makes everybody around him better.”
Posey’s two-run single was the major blow in a four-run third inning for the Giants that began when Blanco singled and Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado made a wide throw on Panik’s sacrifice-bunt attempt. Duffy also had an RBI single in the inning and Conor Gillaspie drove in a run with a fielder’s choice.
The Giants added four more runs in a fourth inning that featured two Milwaukee errors. Utility infielder Ramiro Pena, called up from Triple-A Sacramento last week, added a two-run single in the eighth inning for his first hit and RBIs in the majors since 2014.
“I gain confidence when my teammates are scoring runs for me,” Cueto said through his interpreter, Erwin Higueros. “I hope we continue doing that.”
Cueto said despite having an eight-run lead after four innings, “You have to tell yourself it’s a tight game.”
It could not have felt that way to the Brewers, who scored their lone run against Cueto on Alex Presley’s broken-bat infield single in the fifth. Cueto has won his past eight starts against Milwaukee, posting a 1.68 ERA in that span and becoming the 13th pitcher to win eight consecutive starts against the Brewers in their 48-year history.
In his previous outing, Cueto was called for a balk for doing his shoulder-shimmying delivery that led to an early run in a 3-2 loss to the Dodgers. He seemed to tone down the variations on Wednesday to his more traditional delivery and the occasional quick-pitch. But as his 96th and final pitch, and his reaction thereafter, showed, he toned down little else.
“In the big leagues, you can’t fall asleep and relax,” Cueto said. “Locate the ball and be aggressive.”