SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy hyped Johnny Cueto vs. Zack Greinke as a matchup of artists, but neither pitcher had his best brushstrokes working in their confrontation Tuesday night at AT&T Park.
Cueto couldn't get through the fifth inning and Greinke labored to get through six frames, but Greinke managed to tiptoe through more trouble, and the Arizona Diamondbacks ultimately claimed a 4-3 victory over the Giants to open their brief two-game series.
The defeat dropped the Giants two games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were rained out at Colorado, in the National League West.
Cueto (14-5) started the game very strong, allowing just a two-out first inning walk to A.J. Pollock over the first three innings, and when the Giants got him a run in the bottom of the third on Brandon Crawford's sacrifice fly, it appeared as if he might be able to work with that. The Giants' 14-game winner gave up a pair of singles in the fourth, but struck out Jake Lamb looking on a nifty inside fastball and remained unscathed.
It all came crashing down in the fifth, however. Somehow, Cueto walked Yasmany Tomas, who only had 26 walks in 417 at-bats this season, to lead off the inning. After a long battle with No. 8 hitter Chris Owings, the Arizona shortstop rifled a triple into left-center to tie the score, and then Cueto walked Greinke on a 3-2 pitch.
Jean Segura's single to center made it 2-1 Diamondbacks, but Greinke was cut down at third on a sacrifice attempt by Michael Bourn. Following a walk to A.J. Pollock that loaded the bases, Cueto struck out Paul Goldschmidt and looked like he might get out of the inning with minimal damage. But Welington Castillo followed with a single to center that scored two more, and that ended Cueto's night.
The Giants got one back in the sixth against Greinke on back-to-back doubles by Hunter Pence and Joe Panik, but the Arizona righthander finished the inning before turning it over to the bullpen after 108 pitches.
It was hardly vintage Greinke (12-4), who gave up six hits, walked two and struck out only one and he amassed 70 pitches over the first three innings. But the Giants still couldn't put together a significant rally, against their longtime nemesis, who upped his record to 9-1 against San Francisco lifetime, including a 4-0 mark at AT&T Park.
The Giants had a shot to break through against Arizona's bullpen in the seventh when Angel Pagan ripped a one-out double to center and Buster Posey walked against righthander Randall Delgado. But D-Backs manager Chip Hale went to former Giants lefthanded prospect Edwin Escobar, who got Crawford to hit into a double play to end the threat.
Escobar delivered another double play in the eighth against his former team. After a one-out walk to Pence, Panik hit a grounder to second baseman Segura, who made a nifty backhand flip to Owings to start the DP.
The Giants staged a two-out rally in the ninth against reliever Daniel Hudson when pinch-hitter Jarrett Parker was hit by a pitch. Parker took second base without a throw, and Pagan's single to right brought him home. But Hudson retired Posey on a sharp grounder to end the game and pick up his second save.
--Pence returned to the lineup after missing three games with right hamstring tightness and went 3 for 3 against Greinke. Pence came into the game with just four hits in 26 at-bats (.154) against Greinke.
-- Center fielder Denard Span left the game with a stiff neck in the sixth inning.
--The Giants haven't decided on a Friday starter in Chicago, which is Matt Cain's slot, but it remains to be seen if Bochy will go with the veteran righthander, who struggled in his only rehab start with Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday.
-- Left-handed reliever Josh Osich will be part of the traveling party to Chicago and will likely be activated when rosters can be expanded on Thursday. There could be a number of other roster additions at Wrigley Field as well. "We want to get that clubhouse really small," said Bochy.
Bochy said 41-year-old Joe Nathan, signed to a minor-league contract last week, is a possibility as a call-up if things can be worked out on the 40-man roster. "We're looking at all the possibilities right now," the manager said.
-- Pitcher Jake Peavy, on the disabled list with lower back strain, received a cortisone shot. He is not eligible to come off the D.L. until Sept. 5.
Follow Carl Steward on Twitter at twitter.com/stewardsfolly.