SAN DIEGO -- Johnny Cueto began his day with a peck on the cheek from a beluga whale. Then, the crafty right-hander made sure the Padres offense never found its sea legs, tossing a complete-game gem in a 2-1 Giants victory at Petco Park.
Hunter Pence provided the offense with a two-run homer in the fourth -- which was just enough support for an efficient and effective Cueto. He allowed four hits while striking out eight and now owns a 0.88 ERA (four earned runs, 41 innings) in his last five outings against San Diego.
One out away from victory, Cueto walked Melvin Upton Jr., which brought Derek Norris to the plate. Giants manager Bruce Bochy elected to leave Cueto in the game.
"His stuff was still good," Bochy said, noting Cueto had fanned Matt Kemp and Brett Wallace to open the ninth. Norris, Bochy later revealed, would be Cueto's final hitter. But the drama ended as Norris lifted a first-pitch foul popup.
Padres left-hander Drew Pomeranz was solid over six innings, surrendering only the Pence home run. But he was removed with his pitch count up to 107. Pomeranz fanned five and allowed four hits -- and now has a 1.13 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP in May.
"I was kind of battling the strike zone a little bit out there at first, taking those extra few days off," said Pomeranz, who had six days' rest between starts. "Those guys always foul a lot of balls off of me, make me throw a lot of pitches. I was out there grinding."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Pence's power: The Giants didn't do much offensively, but given Cueto's excellence, they didn't need much. Pence provided Cueto and the Giants with the runs they needed by redirecting an 0-2 pitch from Pomeranz over the right-field barrier for a two-run, opposite-field homer.
"I tried to just battle," said Pence, who's batting .348 (16-for-46) in his last 12 games. Exhausting the possibilities, he added, "There's a good chance of him throwing me a high fastball or something offspeed. It's tough to battle all of them."
Streak-snapper: Pence's homer ended Pomeranz's scoreless streak at 18 innings -- a stretch that dated back to May 1 against the Dodgers. That mark tied a career high for the left-hander and is the longest by a Padres pitcher this season. On Pence's homer, Pomeranz's fastball -- intended to go up and in -- got a bit too much of the plate, although it was still a couple of inches above the zone.
"It kind of leaked back away," Pomeranz said. "It wasn't supposed to be there, but he's probably the only guy that's going to do that with that pitch."
Glove story: Solid defense stops opponents' rallies before they start. The Giants reinforced this truth in the sixth inning, as third baseman Matt Duffy and Cueto turned grounders that looked like potential infield hits into outs. Duffy rushed in to grab Wil Myers' chopper before unleashing an off-balance yet strong throw to first. Then Cueto outdid Duffy, pouncing on Kemp's dribbler and making an even stronger throw, fadeaway-style, for the inning-ending out.
On the board: The Padres struck first in the second inning, when Alexei Ramirez singled home a run. Wallace had reached second with a leadoff double, but was in jeopardy of being stranded before Ramirez bounced one up the middle. Cueto shut down the San Diego offense after that. It marked just the second time this season the Padres have lost when scoring first (14-2).
"He keeps you off balance with a lot of his tempo stuff," said Wallace. "He'll quick-pitch, slide step, hold for a couple seconds. He's very creative in his windup with the way he delivers the ball. He's got good stuff. You throw some of that timing stuff into the mix, too, it can make for a tough night."
"Cueto doesn't give in. He preys on you expanding the zone. He did it very well tonight. We, collectively, did not respond well to it. He pitched well. He's a guy that's touch-and-feel early in the game, he's pitching at 87-89 [mph]. Then all of a sudden he gets down to the seventh, eighth, ninth inning and he morphs. He's throwing 94-95. He's almost a completely different pitcher." -- Padres manager Andy Green
WHAT'S NEXT Giants: A 2014 National League All-Star, Jeff Samardzija will continue his bid to return to the Midsummer Classic when he confronts San Diego in Thursday's 6:10 p.m. PT series finale. Samardzija yielded a season-high five runs in a 5 2/3-inning effort against San Diego on April 27.
Padres: Coming off his best start of the season, James Shields takes the ball for the series finale against the Giants on Thursday at 6:10 p.m. PT. He tossed seven scoreless frames while striking out nine in Milwaukee last week. Shields lowered his ERA to 3.12, but with scarce run support, the Padres have won just two of his eight outings.