Cueto, painting the corners and showing off his wide variety of deliveries, went the full nine innings in posting the first complete game in the World Series by an American League pitcher in 24 years in windy, chilly conditions at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday.
Not since the Minnesota Twins’ Jack Morris beat the Atlanta Braves in a 10-inning, Game Seven victory in the 1991 World Series, had an American League hurler turned in such a performance.
“He was electric tonight,” said Eric Hosmer, who supplied a clutch two-out, two-run single in the fifth inning to give the Royals their first lead of the game.
“It was the type of outing we needed, especially after the way we used our bullpen last night. So just a huge outing from a big time player.”
Kansas City used seven pitchers in the 14-inning, 5-4 Royals victory in Tuesday’s Game One, but Cueto gave the entire bullpen the night off with his dominant performance.
The dreadlocked right hander was locked in a pitcher’s duel with Mets ace Jacob deGrom until Kansas City came to bat in the fifth after New York had grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fourth.
DeGrom had yielded one hit over the first four innings but a lead-off walk to Alex Gordon got it started and five singles later, three of them after two outs, it was 4-1 for the home team and a three-run burst in the eighth made it a rout.
Mets manager Terry Collins was frustrated by his pitcher’s performance.
“It’s the World Series. We’ve got to make pitches and we’re not making them,” said Collins. “All of a sudden the ball’s over the middle of the plate. I don’t know why.
“We win because we ride our starting pitching. When they struggle, we’re going to struggle, and that’s what’s happening.”
Cueto, added by the Royals in a trade deadline deal in July, retired 15 batters in a row before giving up a two-out walk to Daniel Murphy in the ninth before getting Yoenis Cespedes to fly out to right to end it.
The Dominican had served as an ace with the Cincinnati Reds before the impending free agent was sent to Kansas City in a deadline deal in July.
Cueto delivered mediocre results for the Royals and was battered by the Blue Jays on the road in the play-offs, giving up eight runs in two innings. He was at his best pitching at Kauffman Stadium, winn-ing the clinching game at home in the AL Division Series against Houston, retiring he last 19 batters in a two-hit outing over eight innings.
Cueto again showed there was no place like home when he confounded the Mets with his deliveries, turning his back to the batter, sometimes speeding up his motion, and other times inserting a hesitation before unleashing a pinpoint pitch.
“Tonight was everything we expected Johnny to be,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. “He was on the attack. He kept the ball down. He changed speeds. It was just a spectacular performance by him.”
The victory took the Royals, who lost last year’s World Series in seven games to the San Francisco Giants, halfway to winning their first Fall Classic crown in 30 years. The series shifts to New York for Game Three tonight.