San Francisco Giants Morning Minute: Cueto Settles, Time for a Change?

Jun 10, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 10, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports /

On this edition of the San Francisco Giants Morning Minute, we discuss Cueto settling in, and maybe it’s time for a change.

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Good morning, San Francisco Giants’ fans, and welcome to another edition of the Giants Morning Minute. On Friday, the Giants lost yet another heartbreaker, dropping the first game of a three-game set to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-2. Clayton Kershaw earned his ninth win of the season, while Santiago Casilla took his second loss. Kenley Jansen shut the door for his 17th save.

The Giants still hold a three-game lead over the Dodgers in the National League West, and these two teams remain the only ones in the division with a winning record.

Here’s what went on Friday.

1 – Johnny Cueto Settles in Quickly

Johnny Cueto has been downright tremendous in his time with the Giants, but if there has been one knock on him, he’s let a couple of innings get away from him. Things seem to snowball, and Cueto just can’t get the inning to end. It seemed like the first inning on Friday was headed in that direction.

On the second pitch of the game, Cueto knicked Chase Utley with a curveball, putting a runner on first for free. The next batter, Corey Seager, nubbed a ball off the end of the bat that third baseman Matt Duffy couldn’t make a play on. Two on, nobody out, under the weirdest of circumstances. The next batter was Justin Turner, and things got even weirder.

After a wild pitch, Cueto went into his usual routine of shimmying before the pitch, and was called for a balk that scored a run. Adrian Gonzalez added another run on an RBI single, and Trayce Thompson followed with another single. Two on, one out, two runs already in.

Cueto would let it go no longer, retiring the next two batters in order. That started a string of 13 consecutive batters retired, which was snapped when Chase Utley was hit (on the pant leg) with another pitch. Cueto didn’t let that bother him, and he retired the next 10 in order before he was pulled at 114 pitches.

Cueto kept the lead at two runs, and watched as the Giants cut into it, first with a solo home run from Duffy, then a run-scoring double from Buster Posey. Though the end result was not pretty, Cueto did a marvelous chance of giving the Giants a chance against one of the best in the business, Clayton Kershaw.

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2 – When it’s Time for a Change…

If you know me, I’ve been a staunch defender of Santiago Casilla, but distrust in the man who is supposed to be locking down the ninth inning seems to be at an all-time high.

After a sterling month of May, during which he allowed two runs in 13 innings, Casilla has been a completely different pitcher, and it’s certainly hurting the Giants. In four appearances since the calendar turned, Casilla has given up four runs in 3.2 innings, including a blown save and two losses after entering in a tie game.

Maybe it’s time to diminish Casilla’s role in an effort to allow him to build confidence back up after these disheartening losses. There’s no clear cut frontrunner to take his spot, as the bullpen as a whole has been less than overwhelming, but there are some choices.

There’s Cory Gearrin, who has probably been the Giants’ best reliever so far this season. Placing him in the ninth inning would mean he needs to face opposing left-handers, which hasn’t been an easy proposition in his career. This season, lefties are slashing .267/.421/.333 against Gearrin, which is better than his career numbers (.302/.400/.457).

There’s Hunter Strickland, who closed the ballgame on Wednesday after manager Bruce Bochy played the matchups in the ninth inning. He has been good for the most part this season, but his usage has been all over the place. There’s Derek Law, who has been considered a “future closer” before. Law has been solid in his first taste of big league action this year, with a 2.70 ERA and 1.150 WHIP.

There’s the ever-popular “closer-by-committee” option. Bochy can play the matchups, like he did on Wednesday.

Whatever the answer is, the back-end of the Giants’ bullpen has to be better. They’ve let too many games slip away lately.

Next: Giants Morning Minute: New Additions

And that will do it for this edition of the Giants Morning Minute. Up next, the Giants and Dodgers square off in the middle game of their series on National TV (yaaaayyyyyyyy). Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir will butt heads.