The Blue Jays return to the dome tonight as they try to get the series turned around against the Royals. After two forgettable (what happened in them again?) games in Kansas City, the team will try to avoid going down into a 3-0 hole in front of their home crowd. The pitching matchup should create some hope as Marcus Stroman looks to continue his strong postseason against Johnny Cueto.
The 29-year-old Cueto came up with the Cincinnati Reds around the same time as fellow Royal Edinson Volquez, although Cueto was always the better pitcher. Where Volquez was traded away, Cueto stuck with the mediocre Reds for the entirety of his career up until this season's trade deadline. In the rush to bolster their rotation, the Royals traded away Brandon Finnegan along with two prospects for a half-season of the Dominican starter. Similar to the David Price situation with the Blue Jays, Cueto will be a free agent after this season and will earn himself a nice little pay raise that likely won't come from the team he's currently pitching for.
With the Reds, Cueto had an ERA in the mid-2's from 2011 all the way to this season. He's always sported a low BABIP, with his FIP usually being about a point higher despite consistently solid peripherals annually. As Jasper noted yesterday, the righty is an interesting pitcher who doesn't really strike you as an ace until you look at his numbers. Of course when he was traded to the Royals all of his good statistics disappeared as the American League chewed him up and spit him out. His first couple starts with the team were strong, including one against the Blue Jays, before it all unravelled and his ERA climbed nearly a full point in just two months of wearing the Kansas City jersey,
Then he entered the postseason as an important part of the team's rotation, getting the start in Game 2 of the ALDS. He started extremely slowly and got beat up hard in the early innings before settling down and giving the team a chance to win. In six frames he allowed four runs on seven hits, with the Royals eventually winning the game in the later innings. After that, Cueto lined up for a huge Game 5 start in which he allowed a two-run home run in the second inning. It looked like it all might start to fall apart for the 5'10" righty, but instead he was perfect the rest of the game and was a key reason the team advanced to the next round. His final line in that contest was eight innings with just the two hits and two runs coming in the second frame along with eight strikeouts. It certainly appears that you must get to him early before he settles down and begins to dominate.
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There's no better way to describe his repertoire other than a complete mix of everything:
His four-seamer and two-seamer have always been his best pitches, with his off-speed stuff just meant to keep hitters off balance. His changeup has its days, but he doesn't throw it very often to right-handers meaning it won't make too much of an appearance in tonight's contest. The fastballs come in around the low-90's and don't feature a ton of movement, but hitters have struggled with them for countless number of years. It will be interesting to see if a fastball-hitting team like the Blue Jays will be able to have success against a pitcher like Cueto.
Something that may be a good sign for Toronto is that Cueto is a RHP who enjoys pitching inside to same-handed hitters. When opponents try to pitch the Blue Jays inside it's usually not a successful formula, just ask Derek Holland.
- Ben Revere LF
- Josh Donaldson 3B
- Jose Bautista RF
- Edwin Encarnacion DH
- Chris Colabello 1B
- Troy Tulowitzki SS
- Russell Martin C
- Kevin Pillar CF
- Ryan Goins 2B