Judging the Royals

Johnny Cueto deals with adversity in middle of game

Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto pitched a complete game Wednesday, giving the bullpen a needed rest.
Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto pitched a complete game Wednesday, giving the bullpen a needed rest. jledford@kcstar.com

The Johnny Cueto the Royals traded for showed up on Wednesday night in Game 2 of the World Series — just when they needed him.

Cueto finished a complete game two-hitter in the Royals’ 7-1 victory over the New York Mets. After a 14-inning marathon on Tuesday, Cueto’s performance allowed the Royals bullpen to rest.

Cueto overcame some adversity in the fourth inning, when he gave up a run after walking two and allowing a single by Lucas Duda. However, the two walks were aided by calls by home plate umpire Mark Carlson that could have gone the other way, and the single was a soft one.

Mike Moustakas also missed a chance to turn a double play in that inning. In fact. Cueto was pitching well. He just wasn’t getting the results he should have earned with the pitches he threw.

Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom, meanwhile, found out how difficult it is to strike out Royals hitters. Despite repeatedly getting two-strike counts, deGrom only got two strikeouts and surrendered four earned runs in five innings.

Each Cueto start feels like a gamble, but Wednesday night the Cueto gamble paid off.

Game 2 notes

▪ During his first at-bat, the Mets Daniel Murphy complained to Carlson and then took a called strike three. It usually doesn’t pay to get on the umpire’s bad side.

It appeared that Murphy said “Let’s go!” to Carlson. If you say “let’s go” to a teammate it’s encouragement; say it to an umpire and it’s criticism. “Let’s go” to an umpire means, “pick it up — do your job.”

▪ At one point Cueto threw a pitch in under the arms of Murphy, who stands on top of the plate and is able to pull outside pitches with authority. Backing him off the plate seems like a good idea, and it’s probably not the last time we’ll see a Royals pitcher come inside on Murphy.

▪ The Royals turned a 5-4-3 double play and it gave fans a chance to see Royals second baseman Ben Zobrist’s over-the-top throwing motion. It takes longer than a sidearm throw, but it’s more accurate.

▪ DeGrom tried to pick off Alex Gordon in the third inning and you could see Gordon dive and reach for the back corner of the base. That’s because reaching for the back corner makes the first baseman’s tag longer than if you reached for the front corner of the bag.

▪ With runners at second and third base and one down in the fifth inning, the Mets did not bring the infield in even though the game was tied. Maybe because of the runner on second, teams are sometimes reluctant to bring the infield in with two runners in scoring position. If you bring the infield and let a ground ball get through, you’ve got a good chance of giving up more than one run.

▪ Ben Zobrist got a bad hop off the lip of the infield, but it was the back lip. Zobrist was playing in the outfield grass in a shift, but that gives a baseball two infield lips to hit. Unusual to see a ball come off up off the back lip.

▪ According to Fox’s Tom Verducci, Cueto was giving signs from mound during the series against Toronto. Once you looked for them the signs were very easy to see. That might explain Cueto’s dismal performance.

▪ With runners on second base — and in Toronto they were doing it without a runner on second base — catchers often will use a more complicated sign system like second sign, shake, first. That means the second sign in the first sequence is the real sign. If the pitcher shakes the catcher off, it’s the first sign in the next sequence. Whatever sign sequence Cueto and Salvador Perez were using had them confused.

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