Royals

Johnny Cueto comes up big, Royals beat Mets 7-1 in World Series Game 2

World Series Game 2 interviews: Cueto puts Royals two wins from title

After the Royals beat the Mets 7-1 in Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium, players praised the complete game thrown by Johnny Cueto and the four-run rally in the fifth that gave the Royals the lead for good.
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After the Royals beat the Mets 7-1 in Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium, players praised the complete game thrown by Johnny Cueto and the four-run rally in the fifth that gave the Royals the lead for good.

Kauffman Stadium may never feel better than this, not in 2015, not in a lifetime. For the inhabitants of this ballpark, stocked with a generation of Royals fans choked by 29 years without October and taunted by a silver medal in 2014, the pinnacle may have come in a 7-1 victory over the Mets in Game 2 of the World Series, when the lineup bloodied an opposing ace and incited a slew of standing ovations.

Savor this if you stood among the rain-soaked 40,410 fans inside the stadium. Savor it if you joined the millions watching on television or huddling near a radio. Savor it if you spent years waiting for a Royals renaissance, because baseball might not be played again in Kansas City this season.

Baseball may disappear for the sweetest of reasons, because the Royals flew to New York on Wednesday night with a chance to spill champagne inside Citi Field and celebrate their first championship since 1985. A four-run fifth inning carried Kansas City to a 2-0 lead in this series. The rally acted like a season-long highlight reel in miniature, a collection of good fortune, well-placed hits and tenacious at-bats.

“One thing we’ve learned as a team is you can’t let up at all,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “You have to keep your foot on the gas.”

After the Royals beat the Mets 7-1 in Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium, players praised the complete game thrown by Johnny Cueto and the four-run rally in the fifth that gave the Royals the lead for good.

A night after outlasting the Mets in a marathon, the Royals peppered Jacob deGrom, New York’s long-haired staff leader, with jabs and hooks. In three starts this October, deGrom yielded only four runs. The Royals managed that many in the fifth alone.

Trailing by a run when the inning began, Alcides Escobar failed to lay down a bunt, so he responded by tying the game with a two-strike single up the middle. Hosmer pushed his club in front with a two-run hit. Mike Moustakas completed the flurry with an RBI single of his own.

In a fitting development for his topsy-turvy Royals career, Johnny Cueto protected the lead with the first two-hit complete game in the World Series since Greg Maddux twirled one for Atlanta in 1995. Cueto retired 15 batters in a row after giving up a run in the fourth. The ballpark showered him with adoration, a far cry from the derision he faced last week in Canada.

The actors are familiar. The events are familiar. It is all so familiar, the story of a juggernaut that blitzed the American League, absorbed a series of jaw-rattling, knee-buckling blows from the Astros in the first round, trounced Toronto in the next and now stand two victories away from a title.

“Our confidence level hasn’t changed since the first day of spring training to today,” manager Ned Yost said. “Our confidence has been high all year long. We expected to be here.”

To save their season, the Mets will turn to a pair of rookie pitchers. Noah Syndergaard, the Game 3 starter, is 23. Steven Matz, the Game 4 starter, has pitched in eight big-league games. New York must pray the two kids can do what deGrom and Matt Harvey, the relative veterans of the rotation, could not: Upend the relentless offensive machine of the Royals.

In the buildup to this series, the marquee matchup appeared to be New York’s gas-wielding starters facing Kansas City’s gang of contact hitters. Neither Harvey nor deGrom missed many bats. Neither could handle the lineup during a third turn through the order. Neither received a lifeline from manager Terry Collins. Both picked up losses.

The most starling factoid to emerge from the evening was deGrom’s inability to induce whiffs. He struck out 205 batters in 191 innings during the season. On Wednesday he generated only three swinging strikes, and none via a fastball humming between 95-96 mph.

“We don’t swing and miss,” Yost said. “We put the ball in play, and we find ways to just keep putting the ball in play until you find holes.”

The Star's Andy McCullough and Blair Kerkhoff describe how the Royals took control of the World Series with a 7-1 win over the Mets in Game 2 on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium. Game 3 is at 7:07 Central time Friday night in New York.

To the Royals, the right-handed armada of the Mets resembles a collection of hirsute fodder. At one point during a post-game interview, Lorenzo Cain remarked how well Syndergaard was pitching until the fifth. Reminded that Syndergaard was not actually in the game, Cain shrugged. The Royals will let others identify their victims.

Wednesday night lacked the drama of Wednesday morning, when the Royals finished off their 14-inning victory in Game 1. The contest tested the margins of the Royals roster and the depth of their collective will. The team required eight innings of relief pitching, including three from Game 4 starter Chris Young.

Cueto was one of the few fresh Royals. He watched the 14-inning marathon from the dugout. A few months earlier, when Cueto joined the club, he appeared a lock for the potential first game of the World Series. He tumbled far enough down the pitching hierarchy that the team configured its rotation around Cueto’s perceived weaknesses, not his potential strengths.

In two starts before Wednesday, Cueto reached a summit of greatness and followed up with a historic descent into the grotesque. He spun eight innings of two-run baseball against Houston to clinch the American League Division Series. Then he surrendered eight runs and could not collect an out in the third inning in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

The first start occurred at Kauffman Stadium. The second took place at Rogers Centre, where Cueto looked rattled by the relentless crowing of Blue Jays fans. The Royals sensed a connection between the two events, and aligned their World Series rotation so Cueto would not have to pitch at Citi Field.

The concession looks odd for a player of Cueto’s pedigree and resume. Yet it made sense given his enigmatic tenure in Kansas City. The team hoped by affording Cueto a chance to pitch at home, a ballpark he credits as a source of vitality, spacious confines and a friendly crowd could assuage whatever ails him, be it contractual anxiety, worries about the health of his right elbow or a general lack of comfort.

In deGrom, Cueto found a worthy rival. The duo traded zeros at the start. Cueto faced the minimum through three innings. DeGrom saw 10 batters, but did not allow a hit. Despite his success, the Royals dugout still brimmed with confidence.

“I feel like as a team, we saw him great tonight,” Cain said. “We saw him really good.”

Cueto personified efficiency during those three innings. He lost acquaintance with the strike zone in the fourth. Umpire Mark Carlson ceased giving Cueto the corners. A run resulted after Cueto issued two walks to set the table for Yoenis Cespedes.

Cespedes sent a grounder hopping toward third base. Moustakas stepped on the bag for one out. He could have ended the inning. But his throw yanked Hosmer off his bag, his toes inches away from a third out.

At times in Game 1, Kansas City unveiled an exaggerated defensive shift for Lucas Duda, New York’s left-handed, pull-hitting first baseman. Moustakas ventured over to the far side of second base. Duda still yanked a pair of hits through the defense. In the view of some team officials, he capitalized on the awkwardness of the alignment.

The Royals debated the merits of the shift heading into Game 2. Moustakas remained on the left side of third in Duda’s at-bat in the second, but Duda still threaded a single through the area vacated by shortstop Alcides Escobar. In Duda’s next at-bat, he found another way to vex the Royals. He flared a single over Moustakas’ head to score Murphy.

Kansas City answered in the fifth. The first man up was Alex Gordon. The night before, he conquered closer Jeurys Familia with a game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth. Now he took a walk, and advanced to second on a single by Alex Rios.

Up came Escobar. In these situations, for years, he has dropped down bunts. He believes it is his responsibility to move the runners into scoring position, not to bring them home. But he could not square up a pair of elevated heaters from deGrom.

“That’s not easy with this guy, because the fastball is going up,” Escobar said. “After that, down 0-2, I said, ‘I’m going to swing the bat right now.’”

It was a wise choice. He rifled a hanging slider into center field and plated Gordon.

The pitch location from deGrom was a harbinger. He could not drive the baseball down toward the knees. The Royals feasted on him. As Mets lefty Jon Niese heated up in the bullpen, Collins stuck with deGrom against Hosmer. DeGrom threw another flat slider. Hosmer punched it into center for two runs.

“What’s going on is not a fluke,” reserve outfielder Jonny Gomes said. “What’s going on is practiced.”

Moustakas offered an exclamation point. In typical fashion, he did not provide thunder. Instead he pounced on a toothless curveball and threaded it through the infield to score Hosmer.

“It’s only a matter of time before we score some runs with this lineup,” Moustakas said. “We keep battling, we keep grinding, and we find a way to put some runs on the board.”

The lead gave Cueto some room to maneuver. He stayed inside the strike zone after Duda’s hit fell. Cueto only struck out four batters on the evening. He relied upon the sturdiness of his defense and his ability to avoid barrels.

“When he’s aggressive and he’s attacking hitters and he’s working quick,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said, “these are the results we get.”

The Royals tacked on a trio of runs in the eighth aided by lackluster defending by the Mets. The fans pumped their fists and shredded their lungs. Inside this park, parties have raged all season long. The franchise shattered its record for attendance. The players overcame the stigma of being a one-year wonder.

They enter the finishing stretch both emboldened by their ongoing success and wizened by the bitterness of 2014. Hosmer spoke to the temporary euphoria of that World Series, when the Royals led two games to one and owned a three-run lead in Game 4. The tides can shift so quickly in the postseason, and “you realize nothing is over,” he said.

But savor this night, just as you savored all the nights before it, through the long years and the lean years, through the heartbreak of last October. Savor the 2015 Royals. Because when the team returns to Kansas City next week, you may not see any baseball. You may have to settle for a parade.

Wednesday’s box score

R

World Series Game 2

Royals 7, Mets 1

TableStyle: SP-basebattersCCI Template: SP-basebatters

New York

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Granderson rf

3

0

0

0

1

0

.125

D.Wright 3b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.182

Dan.Murphy 2b

2

1

0

0

2

2

.222

Cespedes lf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.100

Duda 1b

3

0

2

1

0

0

.444

T.d’Arnaud c

3

0

0

0

0

0

.111

Conforto dh

3

0

0

0

0

1

.000

W.Flores ss

3

0

0

0

0

0

.000

Lagares cf

3

0

0

0

0

0

.333

Totals

28

1

2

1

3

4

 

TableStyle: SP-basebattersCCI Template: SP-basebatters

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

A.Escobar ss

5

1

2

2

0

0

.273

Zobrist 2b

5

0

0

0

0

0

.273

L.Cain cf

4

0

0

0

1

0

.100

Hosmer 1b

4

1

2

2

0

1

.286

K.Morales dh

4

0

1

0

0

1

.143

Moustakas 3b

3

1

2

1

1

0

.444

S.Perez c

4

1

1

0

0

0

.300

A.Gordon lf

2

2

1

1

2

0

.286

Rios rf

3

1

1

0

0

1

.167

Orlando rf

0

0

0

1

0

0

.333

Totals

34

7

10

7

4

3

 

TableStyle: SP-basebyinningsCCI Template: SP-basebyinnings

New York

000

100

000

1

2

1

Kansas City

000

040

03x

7

10

0

E: Duda (1). LOB: New York 3, Kansas City 8. 2B: S.Perez (1), A.Gordon (1). 3B: A.Escobar (1). RBIs: Duda (1), A.Escobar 2 (3), Hosmer 2 (4), Moustakas (2), A.Gordon (2), Orlando (1). SF: Orlando.

Runners left in scoring position: New York 2 (T.d’Arnaud, Cespedes); Kansas City 4 (S.Perez 3, L.Cain). RISP: New York 1 for 4; Kansas City 5 for 12. Runners moved up: Zobrist, K.Morales. GIDP: T.d’Arnaud. DP: Kansas City 1 (Moustakas, Zobrist, Hosmer).

TableStyle: SP-basepitchersCCI Template: SP-basepitchers

New York

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

deGrom L, 0-1

5

6

4

4

3

2

7.20

Robles

1

0

0

0

0

0

0.00

Niese

1

3

3

3

1

1

9.00

A.Reed

0.1

1

0

0

0

0

0.00

Gilmartin

9.2

0

0

0

0

0

0.00

TableStyle: SP-basepitchersCCI Template: SP-basepitchers

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Cueto W, 1-0

9

2

1

1

3

4

1.00

Niese pitched to 3 batters in the 8th.

Inherited runners-scored: A.Reed 2-2, Gilmartin 1-0.

Umpires: Home, Mark Carlson; First, Mike Winters; Second, Jim Wolf; Third, Alfonso Marquez; Left, Gary Cederstrom; Right, Bill Welke. Time: 2:54. Att: 40,410.

AP-WF-10-29-15 0307GMT

Andy McCullough: 816-234-4730, @McCulloughStar

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