So much for the idea that Johnny Cueto had exorcized his postseason demons.
After pitching the Kansas City Royals into the American League Championship Series with his excellent outing during Game Five of the ALDS, Cueto had the opportunity to give the Royals a commanding 3-0 series lead against the Toronto Blue Jays. Instead, Cueto fell on face, allowing eight runs on six hits and four walks as he failed to record an out in the third inning. That outing seemingly could not have gotten much worse.
Well, based off of game score, that outing really could not have been much worse for Cueto. His game score of ten is not only tied for the third worst in postseason history, but is the worst ever performance of any American League pitcher. If not for Todd Stottlemyre and Russ Ortiz, Cueto would have been tied for the worst performance in postseason history.
Yes, Cueto is in excellent company with his game score of ten, as both Pete Alexander and Mordecai Brown, two Hall of Fame pitchers, both had their own duds. Tom Glavine had two postseason performances that were almost as bad, earning an eleven and a twelve during his own difficult outings. And yes, it is only one game, with the Kansas City Royals still holding a 2-1 lead in the series.
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Yet, this is about more than one game; this is about what the ramifications could be going forward. Even though the Royals managed to come back against the Blue Jays bullpen and turn what had been a blowout into a much closer game than expected, the doubt as to whether or not Kansas City can count on Cueto in the postseason has returned. It is one thing to have the occasional poor outing, but in this case, Cueto’s less than encouraging track record speaks volumes.
History is also not on the Royals side after Cueto’s performance. In every single one of the postseason series where a pitcher posted a game score of ten or lower, that pitcher’s team lost. Out of the thirteen lowest postseason game scores, that pitcher’s team has only won two of those series. Maybe history is irrelevant here, especially as the Royals still hold the 2-1 series advantage, but that type of outing is certainly a momentum changer.
All the Kansas City Royals need to do is win two more games, and getting one of the next two in Toronto would go a long way towards that goal. The Royals postseason has been a matter of laughing in the face of history, and taking the ALCS after Johnny Cueto’s outing would just be par for the course with Kansas City. One bad outing does not a postseason series make.