Royals turn to Cueto with bullpen in need of a rest
Even one of the most successful bullpens in the majors needs a break, too, which is something the Kansas City Royals had in mind when they acquired innings-eater Johnny Cueto last month.
He's yet to disappoint.
Cueto looks to pick up his first road victory with the Royals when he faces a Boston Red Sox team seeking a season high-tying fourth straight win Friday night.
Kansas City rode its strong bullpen to the World Series last year and continues to rely heavily on its relievers, who lead the AL in innings (394), wins (25) and ERA (2.31) while ranking second with a .209 opponents' batting average.
Kris Medlen pitched three scoreless innings out of the bullpen following Danny Duffy's five-inning effort Thursday as the Royals (73-47) had their five-game winning streak snapped with a 4-1 loss to the Red Sox (55-66).
Jeremy Guthrie lasted just 4 1/3 innings against Cincinnati the night before for Kansas City, which is last in the AL in innings from its starters. That's part of the reason it dealt three pitching prospects to acquire Cueto (2-1, 1.80 ERA) from the Reds on July 26.
Cueto led the NL in innings pitched last year and has gone at least into the sixth in 21 of his 23 outings this season, including all four with the Royals. The right-hander followed up his four-hit shutout of Detroit on Aug. 10 by giving up only a second-inning solo homer over eight innings of Saturday's 9-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
"I feel really good on this ballclub," Cueto said through an interpreter. "Every time I go out there, I feel I have a chance to win."
Cueto's last two starts have come in Kansas City after he gave up five runs in 13 innings as the Royals dropped his first two on the road following the trade. He'll look to cool off the Red Sox, who can match their season-best four-game winning streak set from July 4-8.
Rookie Travis Shaw drew a bases-loaded walk in the first inning, and Ryan Hanigan had a two-run single before Jackie Bradley Jr.'s RBI triple in third. Shaw extended his hitting streak to five with two hits and is batting .500 with four homers and two doubles over his last seven.
"He's a special player," Bradley said of Shaw. "I know what he's capable of. He knows what he's capable of. I'm glad he's getting to show it on this stage."
Boston has won nine of the last 11 meetings with the Royals. It looks to win a fifth straight matchup at Fenway Park as Henry Owens (1-1, 6.19) seeks a better start to this outing.
The left-hander allowed seven runs in his first three innings against Seattle on Sunday in his third major league start, but settled down and pitched his final three scoreless while finishing with 10 strikeouts.
"It would've been easy for a young pitcher to collapse," interim manager Torey Lovullo said. "But he composed himself. He wanted to go back out there for the sixth inning and executed a good game plan. For a young pitcher to do that, for a young pitcher to go back out there and complete that sixth inning as easily as he did says a lot about Henry Owens."
Mike Moustakas accounted for Kansas City's only run Thursday with a homer. It snapped the Royals' 13-game streak of scoring at least three runs.
"We know what we have to do. We have to go out there and continue to play good baseball," Moustakas said. "We don't ever take any days off."