Cueto got two of his season-high eight strikeouts with a runner on third base and less than two outs and threw seven scoreless innings to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night.
"He threw an outstanding ballgame," manager Dusty Baker said. "He got out of trouble twice with a runner on third. That's big to do that with strikeouts. He's turning into that kind of pitcher."
But the key was Cueto (3-2), who allowed four hits and struck out eight -- including the side in order in the third inning -- in a dominating performance that ended a four-start winless streak.
"Johnny Cueto has been lights out this year," Phillips said. "I wish his record was better than what it was. We just haven't given him many runs lately. We did a better job today. ... He's becoming one of the best pitchers in the league."
Miguel Tejada doubled twice, but the Giants managed just two other hits and were shut out for the sixth time this season. San Francisco has been held to one run or fewer in 15 of 63 games this season.
The Giants had a few chances to score in this game, twice getting a runner to third base with one out to no avail. With runners on first and third and one out in the fourth, Cueto struck out Cody Ross and got Brandon Crawford to fly out.
Then in the sixth, Tejada hit a leadoff double and went to third on a sacrifice bunt by No. 3 hitter Freddy Sanchez. The move didn't pay off when Cueto struck out Aubrey Huff on a pitch in the dirt and got Nate Schierholtz to ground out.
That's been a pattern for the Giants, who have scored the fewest runs in the majors this season. The Giants are hitting just .190 in their last six games -- being held to five hits or fewer four times.
"We just have to get this figured out," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's gone on longer than even I thought it would. We just need to get a couple of guys hot and right now we're having a tough time doing that."
Cueto needed to be that stingy on a night when the Reds' high-scoring offense managed little against Madison Bumgarner (2-8). Cincinnati's only run off Bumgarner came when Scott Rolen hit a two-out double in the fourth and scored on Gomes' single.
The Reds had a chance to add on in the seventh when Gomes reached on a fly ball that fell between Huff, Sanchez and Schierholtz near the right-field line and Edgar Renteria reached on a bunt single. But Ramon Hernandez hit into a double play and Cueto flied out to center to end that threat.
Bumgarner allowed one run and eight hits in seven innings, striking out seven in his ninth straight quality start. But for the seventh time in his eight losses this season, the Giants were held to one or fewer runs as he was once again done in by bad luck.
"We have a good team and they all support me so I'm not going to worry about it," Bumgarner said. "I don't expect them to apologize. Hitting is the hardest thing to do. I think we'll be fine. We're still in it. It's not like we're out of it."
Cincinnati added an unearned run in the eighth off Santiago Casilla when Joey Votto doubled with two outs, followed by an intentional walk to Jay Bruce and a walk to Scott Rolen. With Gomes at the plate, a pitch got past Eli Whiteside for a passed ball, allowing Votto to score the second run.
Phillips added an RBI single in the ninth for the Reds.
Before the game, Renteria was presented his 2010 World Series ring in an on-field ceremony. Renteria was the World Series MVP for the Giants last season before the team decided not to bring him back this year. He went 1 for 4.
"It was great," Baker said. "They loved it, he loved it, the fans loved it. It was a very classy thing."
Rolen returned to the lineup for the Reds after missing the previous three games with a throat illness. ... Bumgarner has one win in 15 career home starts for the Giants. ... Whiteside threw out Phillips trying to steal second to end the first inning for just the third caught stealing in the last 23 attempts by Giants catchers.