Johnny Cueto’s injury overshadows Giants’ loss to A’s

OAKLAND – For the first time in the history of interleague play, the Giants and A’s met on the field as last-place teams Monday night.

In the Battle of the Basement, the Giants bullpen sank to the bottom in an 8-5 loss at the Coliseum.

But the Giants’ worst news of the night wasn’t the grand slam that George Kontos served up to Marcus Semien in the sixth, or the six walks that four relievers issued in three innings to draw the ire of Manager Bruce Bochy, or even the fact that the Giants fell percentage points behind the Phillies for the worst record in the major leagues.

Down the road in San Jose, Johnny Cueto was supposed to throw 70 pitches in a Single-A rehab start. He came out after 34 pitches because of forearm tightness, Bochy said.

Cueto will go for tests and he will be reevaluated, and while the severity of his arm injury is not known, the Giants have given up thinking that this season cannot possibly get worse.

Cueto, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a blister issue he has battled all season, struck out four in three innings and appeared to be throwing well at Municipal Stadium, Bochy said.

“Then he felt something in his forearm,” Bochy said. “That’s why he was shut down.”

Cueto has the ability to walk away from the remaining four years and $84 million on his contract after this season and declare free agency, which remained a possibility if he had a strong finish to the season.

The Giants have no such opt-out protection. They took all the risk when they signed the contract, banking on Cueto’s durability. And now, given the myriad issues they must address this winter, being on the hook for $84 million of potentially damaged goods would be a major setback.

The Giants did nothing in the hours before Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline – their only move came a week earlier when they dealt third baseman Eduardo Nuñez to the Boston Red Sox for two prospects – but that was not a surprise. They were not wired to make any blow-up-the-roster trades.

Cueto remained a possibility to be dealt in August, though, because his contract makes it likely he would clear waivers. It has become increasingly clear that if the Giants could trade Cueto, they would – both to add an infusion of talent and also to free up their future payroll obligations. Now that possibility appears dimmer than ever.

Matt Cain continued to take Cueto’s turn in the rotation and he overcame a rocky beginning to turn over a 3-2 game to the bullpen after five innings.

Bochy tasked his relievers with protecting a one-run lead while recording a dozen outs. They never came close. Josh Osich started the sixth by walking the first batter, he left the bases loaded for Kontos, Semien’s slam vaporized Cain’s decision and the relievers spent the rest of the night overthrowing or otherwise missing location.

Josh Osich and Kyle Crick were even wild in the bullpen while getting loose.

“In the major leagues, that shouldn’t happen,” said Bochy, of the six walks in three innings. “We’ve got to control the ball better. We’ve got to get better in the bullpen.”

How, exactly?

“Well, you throw quality strikes like a major league pitcher should,” Bochy said. “You’ll have your hiccups but it shouldn’t be this much. Hopefully they’re not timid or have lost confidence, because they have the equipment to pitch up here.”

The Giants and A’s are always playing for pride and local bragging rights, which mean something to the people who bang drums, paint their faces and – a true test of loyalty – brave the bridge traffic. There are few stadium sounds in Bay Area sports as unique as the mix when A’s fans boo Giants fans for cheering Buster Posey.

The A’s fans cheered loudest in the sixth, and the Giants were left again to reminisce what times were like with a functional bullpen.

The Giants took their 3-2 lead in the fourth when a bottom of the lineup that the Giants didn’t anticipate fielding in the spring scraped together a pair of RBI hits. Jae-gyun Hwang singled home Posey, and Carlos Moncrief, a 28-year-old minor league journeyman making his first big league start, created a difference-making souvenir. He hit a hopper off the mound for an infield single – the first hit of his career — that scored Brandon Crawford.

But a Giants bullpen that blew two leads Sunday night at Dodger Stadium was even less reliable against a last-place opponent.

When the Giants rallied to make it a one-run game in the eighth, their bullpen gave it right back. Kyle Crick left two runners on base and Hunter Strickland couldn’t strand them with two outs.

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