KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Johnny Cueto, who fluctuated between ghastly and grand in his first three postseason starts, pitched a two-hit complete game as the Kansas City Royals topped the New York Mets 7-1 Wednesday night to take a two-games-to-none lead in the World Series.
After an off day, the series switches to New York on Friday for Game 3.
Cueto, who was acquired in a July 26 trade with the Cincinnati Reds to be the ace the Royals were missing, was roughed up for eight runs while retiring only six Blue Jays in an American League Championship Series loss at Toronto on Oct. 19. That was Cueto at his worse.
Cueto, however, was at his best against the Mets, allowing only two singles by Mets first baseman Lucas Duda, and one did not leave the infield. The veteran right-hander, who retired 16 of the final 17 batters he faced, walked three and struck out four. He threw 122 pitches.
The 40,410 fans in Kauffman Stadium were standing and serenading Cueto as he came out for the ninth inning, and they were screaming his name as the game ended.
First baseman Eric Hosmer continues to be a RBI machine, driving in two Kansas City runs, bringing his RBI total to a postseason-leading 15. He has 27 RBIs in 28 career postseason games.
Shortstop Alcides Escobar continues to be a hit machine, contributing a single and a triple. He has hit safely in 12 consecutive postseason games, and his 21 hits the most in the majors this postseason.
The Royals batted around in a four-run fifth, scoring three runs with two outs to take a 4-1 lead.
Left fielder Alex Gordon led off the inning with a walk, and right fielder Alex Rios singled to left. After twice failing to put down a bunt, Escobar singled to center, scoring Gordon.
Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom retired the next two batters before Hosmer drilled a two-run single to center.
Hosmer moved to third on designated hitter Kendrys Morales single and scored on third baseman Mike Moustakas’ single to right.
DeGrom, who was 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his first three postseason starts, labored through 38 pitches in the fifth and was pulled after five innings with his pitch count up to 94. He allowed four runs on six hits and three walks while striking out two. He was replaced by Hansel Robles in the sixth.
Two walks and a double play that was not turned helped the Mets score a run in the fourth. Cueto walked right fielder Curtis Granderson to lead off the inning and second baseman Daniel Murphy with one out.
Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes hit a grounder to Moustakas, who stepped on third to force out Granderson, but his throw to first pulled Hosmer’s foot off the bag, allowing Cespedes to reach.
Duda made the Royals pay by slicing a single to left, scoring Murphy from second base.
The Royals padded their lead in the eighth with three runs off three Mets relievers. The inning included Gordon’s run-producing double, an Escobar RBI triple and a Paulo Orlando sacrifice fly.
NOTES: RHP Edinson Volquez returned to the Dominican Republic after the death of his father Tuesday. “I expect Eddie to be there ready to go for Game 5 (if necessary),” Royals manager Ned Yost said. … Reports surfaced that Royals C Salvador Perez had pine tar on his shin guards, but it was not an issue for Mets manager Terry Collins, who acknowledged Mets C Travis d’Arnaud also “probably does” use pine tar. … Royals relievers allowed one unearned run, five hits and struck out 12 in eight innings in Game 1. “Their bullpen is really good; good as advertised,” Mets 3B David Wright said. “They make a lot of really good hitters look foolish.” … Mets CF Juan Lagares, who had two hits off the bench Tuesday, started Game 2. … Royals RHP Yordano Ventura and Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard are the probables for Game 3 on Friday in New York.