The Royals traded for Johnny Cueto to be their postseason ace, and in the deciding Game 5 of the ALDS he was exactly that, giving up just two runs across eight innings in the 7-2 victory. The Royals didn’t need Cueto to be that good tonight, but they did need him to avoid pitching putridly. He wasn’t up to the task.
The Blue Jays got to Cueto in the second with a series of dinks and dents. Three singles and a batter hit-by-pitch led to three manufactured runs. But we don’t watch the Blue Jays—who led the majors in home runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage etc.—for the manufactured runs, we watch them for the dingers. In the third inning they complied.
After an Edwin Encarnación single and Chris Colabello walk, Troy Tulowitzki clubbed a high, hanging pitch to dead center for a three-run homer. Having given up six runs in two innings, Ned Yost probably should have pulled Cueto. Instead Russell Martin was walked, and Kevin Pillar smoked a run-scoring double. Kris Medlen finally relieved Cueto—the crowd chanted “We want Cueto!” for a long time afterward—and proceeded to give up a massive, booming, 458 foot shot to Josh Donaldson.
It’s hard to overstate just how bad Cueto was. Giving up eight earned runs in just two innings is clear enough, but let’s go a bit deeper. Howabout this: Cueto’s Game Score on the night was 10, tying him for the third worst postseason start ever, and the data goes back all the way until 1903.
Despite Cueto shitting the bed, the Royals almost made a game of it. Up 11-4 going into the 9th inning, Liam Hendriks was unable to get it done for the Blue Jays. He gave up two runs on a sac fly and single, and had to be rescued by closer Roberto Osuna, who John Gibbons was surely hoping to be able to rest in the blowout. Osuna promptly gave up a two-run home run to Kendrys Morales, before finally getting the last two outs to escape with the 11-8 victory.
After seeing their bats go silent in Kansas City—the Blue Jays scored just three runs in Games 1 and 2, none of them off homers—Toronto has to be encouraged by what their offense did tonight, especially off of Cueto. Still, the Royals lead the series 2-1, and it’s not like the Blue Jays’ pitching was able to shut them down either. Let’s hope this thing goes seven, with a boatload of home runs to come.
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