Cueto tosses gem as Royals beat Astros 7-2 in ALDS clincher

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Royals Return to Kansas City After Wild Comeback in Game 4


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Johnny Cueto delivered a masterpiece on his biggest stage yet, pitching eight dominant innings Wednesday night and leading the never-say-die Kansas City Royals to a 7-2 victory over the Houston Astros and back to the American League Championship Series.

Cueto allowed two hits, a single by Evan Gattis followed by Luis Valbuena's second-inning homer, before retiring the final 19 batters he faced. He struck out eight without a walk in the kind of clutch performance the Royals expected when they traded for him.

When Wade Davis breezed through the ninth, the Royals poured onto the field to celebrate.

SEE MORE: Blue Jays win bizarre Game 5 to advance to ALCS

The defending AL champs will host the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 1 on Friday night. The teams have met once before in the ALCS with the Royals winning in seven games in 1985 - they would go on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals for their only World Series triumph.

The Royals trailed 2-1 in the fifth when Alex Rios led yet another comeback with a go-ahead, two-run double. Eric Hosmer and Ben Zobrist also drove in runs, while Kendrys Morales capped the festive night with a three-run homer off Dallas Keuchel in the eighth to put it away.

23 PHOTOS
Best photos/moments from Astros-Royals ALDS
See Gallery
Cueto tosses gem as Royals beat Astros 7-2 in ALDS clincher
Kansas City Royals players walk onto the field for player introductions before Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Houston Astros' Jake Marisnick, center, celebrates with teammate George Springer, left, after scoring during the second inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Royals' Kendrys Morales hits a solo home run during the fourth inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera warms up in the bullpen during the sixth inning of Game 2 in baseball's American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Royals' Alcides Escobar (2) and Ben Zobrist, right, celebrate after their 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 2 of baseball's American League Division Series, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Houston Astros' Colby Rasmus celebrates with third base coach Gary Pettis, left, after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto throws a pitch during the first inning of Game 2 in baseball's American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Houston Astros' Carlos Correa reacts on the ground after fouling a ball off his leg during the fifth inning of Game 2 in baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez is doused by a teammate after their 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 2 of baseball's American League Division Series, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Royals' Eric Hosmer (35) tosses his helmet after striking out as Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro (15) heads toward the dugout during the fifth inning in Game 3 of baseball's American League Division Series Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Patric Schneider)
Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel, right, is greeted by manager A.J. Hinch after striking out Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain during the seventh inning in Game 3 of baseball's American League Division Series Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Kansas City Royals pitcher Danny Duffy looks up as he leaves the game after giving up a home run to Houston Astros' Chris Carter during the seventh inning in Game 3 of baseball's American League Division Series Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Patric Schneider)
Houston Astros' Carlos Correa (1) celebrates with teammates after he hit a solo home run against the Kansas City Royals in the third inning during Game 4 of baseball's American League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Houston Astros' Luis Valbuena (18) makes the tag as Kansas City Royals' Terrance Gore (0) steals third base in the seventh inning during Game 4 of baseball's American League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Houston. Gore was called out after officials reviewed the play. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Kansas City Royals' Salvador Perez (13) celebrates with teammate Mike Moustakas, right, after hitting a two-run home run against the Houston Astros in the second inning during Game 4 of baseball's American League Division Series Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto throws a pitch during the first inning of Game 5 in baseball's American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Houston Astros' Luis Valbuena reacts at home plate after hitting a two-run home run during the second inning of Game 5 in baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
The Kansas City Royals' Salvador Perez connects for a base hit in the third inning against the Houston Astros during Game 5 of the ALDS on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. (Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 14: Kendrys Morales #25 of the Kansas City Royals reacts after hitting a three-run home run in the eighth inning against the Houston Astros during game five of the American League Divison Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 14, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 14: Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and George Springer #4 of the Houston Astros react after the Kansas City Royals defeat the Houston Astros 7-2 in game five of the American League Divison Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 14, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 14: Wade Davis #17 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates defeating the Houston Astros 7-2 in game five of the American League Divison Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 14, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 14: The Kansas City Royals celebrate defeating the Houston Astros 7-2 in game five of the American League Divison Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 14, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Collin McHugh (1-1), who won the divisional series opener for Houston, allowed three runs in four-plus innings. His bullpen fared little better just two days after it blew a four-run, eighth-inning lead to send the series back to Kauffman Stadium for Game 5.

Kansas City has now won 10 of its last 13 playoff games at home.

The Astros actually seemed poised after their meltdown Sunday, bolting to the lead in front of a charged Kansas City crowd thanks to a rare series of Royals defensive lapses.

With two outs in the second, Gattis sent a slow hopper down the line that third baseman Mike Moustakas fielded cleanly. But with plenty of time, his throw across the infield went wide, and first baseman Eric Hosmer had the ball pop from his glove trying to make a swipe tag.

On the next pitch, Valbuena sent his two-run homer streaking into the Astros bullpen.

It wasn't until the fourth that Kansas City got a run back, on back-to-back singles by Cain and Hosmer. But by the fifth, the Royals had figured out McHugh's darting curveball.

Salvador Perez was hit by a pitch, and Alex Gordon hit a ground-rule double to right. Astros manager A.J. Hinch brought in Mike Fiers in relief, and Rios sent a double bouncing down the chalk of the third-base line, scoring two runs and giving the Royals the lead.

SEE MORE: An imaginary tell-all from Steve Bartman and the 2003 Cubs

Following a sacrifice bunt, Zobrist's lazy sacrifice fly made it 4-2.

That was plenty of support for Cueto, who was acquired from the Reds for a package of left-handed prospects just before the July 31 trade deadline precisely for moments like this.

Mixing quick-pitch fastballs with hesitation changeups, Cueto made the Astros look foolish most of the night. He jawed with Houston outfielder Carlos Gomez, strutted around like a Wild West gunfighter, and had the unmistakable swagger of an October ace.

After all, Cueto was finally proving that he was one.

His star turn came after going 0-2 in his first four playoff starts, including a forgettable outing in Game 2 against Houston. He allowed four runs in six innings in that game, though Kansas City's offense and its stingy bullpen ultimately bailed him out.

There was no need for any help this time. Cueto was good enough on his own.

Read Full Story

From Our Partners