Dan's Dugout: Cueto Proves Royal Pain To Mets • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Cueto Proves Royal Pain To Mets

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KANSAS CITY – Don Larsen’s perfect game remains the only no-hitter in World Series history. But Johnny Cueto nearly joined him Wednesday night, when he yielded just two soft singles to Lucas Duda as the Royals ripped the Mets, 7-1, in the second game of this year’s classic.

It was the first complete game by an American League pitcher in the World Series since Minnesota’s Jack Morris went 10 innings to blank Atlanta, 1-0, in 1991 Game 7.

Johnny Cueto handcuffed the Mets in winning Game 2

Johnny Cueto handcuffed the Mets in winning Game 2

Acquired from Cincinnati on July 26 precisely for such pressure games, Cueto pitched the best game of his eight-year career. The 5’10” Dominican outpitched another hirsute righthander, Jacob deGrom, on a cool night at Kauffman Stadium.

The Mets took an early 1-0 lead, when one of Duda’s singles plated a run, but couldn’t hold it. The Royals tied the game, then took the lead on a two-run single by Eric Hosmer.

Cueto, who won 20 games for the Reds last year, had been pitching erratically for the Royals. In 13 starts after his arrival, he went 4-7 with a 4.76 earned run average. All seven losses came in his last nine regular-season starts, making the Royals wonder which Cueto would surface in postseason play.

Decent in the second game of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, he worked eight strong innings in the decisive fifth game of that series. Then the enigmatic pitcher took his trademark dredlocks to the dugout after a terrible two inning-inning outing against Toronto in Game 3 of the Championship Series.

Manager Ned Yost, knowing Cueto was more likely to be Superman at home but Clark Kent on the road,

Ned Yost looks like a genius as the World Series moves to New York

Ned Yost looks like a genius as the World Series moves to New York

wisely picked the pitcher to work the second and sixth games of the World Series. So far, he looks like a genius.

Cueto fanned four and walked three against the Mets but got tougher as the night got darker, retiring all but one of the 17 men to face him. Only Kansas City’s failure to complete a double-play in the fourth stood prevented Cueto from pitching a shutout.

Yost loves to bring his bullpen into games, even with erstwhile closer Greg Holland sidelined by an elbow injury that needed surgery. Remaining relievers Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, and Wade Davis had yielded just one earned run in 21 postseason innings this year (an 0.43 ERA) before the World Series started. With a huge assist in the opener from Game 4 Chris Young, the Royals won a 5-4, 14-inning marathon after Alex Gordon clubbed a game-tying, ninth-inning home run against Mets closer Jeurys Familia.

Kansas City’s contact game was even more evident in Game 2. Against deGrom, arguably the best Mets starter, they generated a four-run fifth inning that effectively put the game out of reach. They padded their lead with a three-spot in the eighth against lefthanded reliever and erstwhile starter Jon Niese.

The two games played so far suggest the Royals are winning the battle of contact hitters versus strikeout pitchers. Kaycee hitters swung and missed just 25 times against 330 Mets pitches.

Alcides Escobar was the KC hitting hero again

Alcides Escobar was the KC hitting hero again

The hitting heroes Wednesday were leadoff man Alcides Escobar, still glowing from the inside-the-park home run he collected on the first pitch from Matt Harvey in the opener, and cleanup man Eric Hosmer. Both had two hits and two runs batted in for the relentless Royals. Gordon was the only man in the lineup who scored twice last night.

Kansas City threatened throughout, making deGrom put maximum effort into each pitch, but broke through in the fifth, when they batted around. The Royals fanned only twice against deGrom, normally a high-strikeout pitcher.

The top three Royals starters could form the backbone of the Dominican team in the next World Baseball Classic, scheduled for 2017. Like Cueto, Edinson Volquez, who started the opener, and Yovano Ventura, who will pitch the first game in New York Friday, also hail from the island republic.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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