SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy hyped Johnny Cueto vs. Zack Greinke as a matchup of artists, but neither pitcher had his best brush strokes working in their high-profile 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 two-game mini-series.
Two days after knocking the ball all over the yard in a 13-run outburst, the Giants reverted back to their more familiar second-half form of not being able to deliver the big hit or significantly move the line in their batting order. It begged the question afterward: Will this 2016 club ever deliver any offensive consistency, and if so, how?
"You just come out and play the next game," said Buster Posey, who hit a sharp groundout with a man on in the ninth to end the Giants' latest fizzle. "I'm sure you get tired of hearing that, but we get tired of hearing the question sometimes."
That's quite an edgy admission from an even-keel stalwart like Posey, so there's little question this is hit-and-miss routine is starting to perturb as much internally as it is externally with frustrated fans.
There are other issues, too, as the Giants fell two games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were rained out at Colorado, in the National League West. Just as they got one outfielder back in the form of right fielder Hunter Pence, who delivered three hits in his return from hamstring tightness, their two other starting outfielders are a bit gimpy.
Center fielder Denard Span had to leave the game with a stiff neck, and left fielder Angel Pagan, while finishing the game and even driving in a run in the ninth, was playing on a hamstring that's been acting up on him.
"This neck thing (with Span) has come up before, and it's got me a little concerned, but hopefully he'll show up (Wednesday) and he'll be fine," said Bochy.
As for Pagan, the manager said, "His hamstring's a little tight. It's been there for a little bit, so he was being a little cautious with it. The last thing we need to lose is him right now as well as he's playing. But he's not 100 percent with that hamstring."
These are not good omens as the Giants finish up a long stretch of games where they have been mostly at home and after Wednesday will embark on an 11-game trip that starts at Wrigley Field against the team with the best record in baseball, the Chicago Cubs.
They could have used a little momentum with a victory over the Diamondbacks, and particularly Greinke, but the Giants' mound nemesis ultimately upped his record to 9-1 against them, including 4-0 at AT&T Park, even though he wasn't the usual dominant Greinke.
That's because Cueto (14-5) was even less so. The Giants right-hander started the game very strong, but leading 1-0, it all came crashing down in the fifth. Cueto lost his command and surrendered a run-scoring triple to Chris Owings and a two-run single to Welington Castillo in a four-run Arizona rally.
What the heck happened?
"I don't even know myself," said Cueto through interpreter Erwin Higuera. "It was a bad inning and I just don't know what happened. I didn't do my job."
The Giants got one back in the sixth against Greinke (12-4) on back-to-back doubles by Pence and Joe Panik, but the Arizona right-hander finished the inning before turning it over to the bullpen after 108 pitches. He gave up six hits, walked two and struck out only one and he amassed 70 pitches over the first three innings.
The Giants had a shot to break through against Arizona's bullpen in the seventh when Pagan ripped a one-out double to center and Posey walked against right-hander Randall Delgado. But D'backs manager Chip Hale went to former Giants left-handed prospect Edwin Escobar, who got Brandon Crawford to hit into a double play to end the threat.
Escobar delivered another double play in the eighth against his former team, this time inducing Panik, and Daniel Hudson finished things off in the ninth despite surrendering a run.