Cueto faces struggling Detroit lineup in his second KC start

Johnny Cueto faces a lineup less potent than the one he pitched well against in his Royals debut.

Nathan Denette/AP

Johnny Cueto was solid and workmanlike in his Royals debut against baseball’s best offense.

He could be in line for a more dominant outing Wednesday night against the Detroit Tigers, who have been bottled up in recent meetings with Kansas City.

Cueto, one of the most highly sought-after players at last week’s trade deadline, faced a tough assignment in his first start for his new club. He gave up three runs over six innings of Kansas City’s 7-6 loss Friday at Toronto, which averages a major league-best 5.3 runs. He exited with a 5-3 lead.

"He pitched really well," manager Ned Yost told MLB’s official website.

The six runs of support were more than he received in 18 of his 19 outings for Cincinnati.

He matched up with Detroit for the first time in his career June 17, allowing three runs — all on a Miguel Cabrera homer — over 5 1/3 innings. Cabrera remains sidelined with a strained calf, and Cueto has given up one home run over 46 innings since that outing.

The Tigers (51-55) were limited to five hits in Tuesday’s 5-1 loss, a tenuous start to a new era of sorts for the franchise. It was the first game since announcing Dave Dombrowski’s exit as president and general manager earlier in the day, a move that surprised many. He was replaced by Al Avila, who had served as Dombrowski’s assistant since 2002.

Detroit has won a franchise-record four consecutive division titles under Dombrowski’s watch, a streak nearly certain to end this year with the Tigers 12 1/2 games behind the first-place Royals (63-42).

"This does not mean we have given up on this season," said Avila, father of catcher Alex Avila. "We were sellers at the deadline, but we still have a good enough nucleus to win this season. The pedal is still to the metal."

Avila’s words ring somewhat hollow given the reality of the Tigers’ situation, though. They’re in danger of falling five games below .500 for the first time since they were 28-33 through June 12, 2012.

Detroit has been run-deprived lately in the series, scoring two runs or fewer in seven of the last nine meetings with only two homers. The Tigers have also tallied two or fewer in eight of 12 overall, and dropped eight of 13 at home.

The Royals had lost four of five before Salvador Perez went 3 for 4 with his 16th home run and three RBIs on Tuesday. He’s one homer away from tying last year’s career high and is batting .359 in his last eight matchups.

Perez and company will face rookie left-hander Matt Boyd (0-2, 14.85), who was acquired from Toronto in last week’s David Price deal.

He hasn’t pitched in the majors since a horrendous second career start July 2 when he failed to record an out in a 12-6 loss to Boston, giving up seven runs and six hits, including back-to-back homers.

"Count on me learning from this and being better from this," he said. "It won’t happen again."

Boyd will be looking to draw on the minor league success he’s had this year, going 9-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 19 starts spanning three clubs.