These are the games that the Kansas City Royals acquired Johnny Cueto for. Brought in to be the ace that they Royals were considered to need in order to win the World Series, Cueto was supposed to be the answer for the big moment. If the Royals needed a victory, Cueto was supposed to be the pitcher they could turn to to turn the tide.
That has not been the case over Cueto’s tenure in Kansas City. His struggles have been well documented, as Cueto’s 4-7 record, to go along with a 4.76 ERA and a 1.451 WHiP, are far from the ace standards that he has set. In fact, he pitched closer to what a back of the rotation starter would have given the Royals, instead of someone that was expected to be a true difference maker.
Cueto has had his moments in a Royals uniform. He was the starter when Kansas City won the division clinching game against the Mariners, cementing the Royals first division title in thirty years. Now, tonight, in the deciding Game Five of the American League Division Series, Cueto has the chance to once again show that the Royals made the correct move in bringing him in.
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Given the postseason track record that Johnny Cueto possesses, there is not much cause for optimism. In the 14.2 posteseason innings that Cueto has pitched, he has posted a 0-2 record with a 5.52 ERA and a 1.705 WHiP. This includes his outing in Game Two, where Cueto gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks over six innings in the Kansas City Royals eventual victory.
It is that outing, however, which gives reason to hope that Cueto will be able to step up tonight. Cueto gave up all four runs in the first three innings, with Colby Rasmus hitting a home run to lead off the top of the third. From that point, Cueto settled in, allowing only a single and a walk in those final four innings.
Tonight may come down to which version of Cueto the Royals get. Will he be the pitcher that struggled from mid August through September, and in his first two plus innings on October 9th? Or will Cueto be that ace pitcher he has proven he can be, and the pitcher that the Royals had over his final four innings in Game Two? Given that his performance in Kansas City may have already cost Cueto a decent amount in free agency, it is critical on a personal level that he lives up to expectations.
This outing will be a referendum on the Johnny Cueto trade for the Kansas City Royals. If he performs up to his ace status, and the Royals advance, then the trade will have been worth it. If not, those who have second guessed the acquisition will have more ammunition. The ball is, quite literally, in his hand.