Johnny Cueto of the Kansas City Royals throws in the first inning against the Red Sox Friday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Johnny Cueto tips his cap to Red Sox after allowing career-high 13 hits in loss: 'They just beat me'

Mike Petraglia
August 21, 2015 - 6:52 pm

If that was an audition, Johnny Cueto may want to petition for a do-over. The Royals ace acquired from Cincinnati on the Sunday before the trade deadline was racked for a career-high 13 hits and seven runs - six earned - over six innings in a 7-2 Red Sox win Friday night at Fenway Park. For some perspective, Cueto hadn't allowed double figure hits in a single outing since June 21, 2013, when he was tagged for 11 hits and seven runs in a loss to the Diamondbacks. One outing later, Cueto headed to the disabled list for two months with a lat strain, derailing Cincinnati's hopes of a division title. Both Cueto and his manager Ned Yost insisted afterward this was a one-game blip and not a warning flag. "[He looked] completely comfortable," Yost said. "He kept competing his tail but just wasn't really sharp. He never stopped competing but he just wasn't exceptionally sharp. He was competing through it. He just got some pitches up and got slapped the other way. Pitches hit up the middle. It was one of those nights." Cueto, who appeared to be stretching his side occasionally on the mound, said the outing was more about the Red Sox batters than his ineffectiveness. "First of all, they made adjustments to me," Cueto said. "I didn't leave too many [pitches] up. But the ones I did leave up, they put good swings on them. They just beat me today. Those guys are major league baseball players and they're in a major league lineup and they just beat me." To Cueto's point, Mookie Betts set the tone by taking a Cueto slider the other way to right-center for a double to open the Boston first inning. He didn't score but it was one of three hits for Betts on the night off Cueto. Blake Swihart went the other way in his first two at-bats against Cueto for base hits. The big adjustment? Look for Cueto's nasty off-speed stuff and go to the opposite field and up the middle. It worked all night for the Red Sox, who made Cueto sweat on a humid night in Boston. The capper was Josh Rutledge crushing a pitch from Cueto over the Green Monster in the sixth for a two-run homer that salted the game away. It was the fifth hit in six career at-bats for Rutledge off Cueto. "It just a bad outing. I'm going to keep my head up and get ready for the next start," Cueto said. Just on Thursday, Cueto, who turns 30 in February, said he would want to come to Boston in 2016 as a free agent because the Red Sox are a championship-caliber contender. Maybe Cueto is also aware of just how much the Red Sox have hammered other "aces" this season, with the likes of Sonny Gray, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez (2x), Chris Sale and Cole Hamels all going down to defeat to Boston. In four previous starts for Kansas City before Friday, Cueto pretty much came as advertised. In 30 innings over four starts, he allowed six total runs and 24 hits, striking out 21 and walking just four. He was 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA. On Friday, he gave up more runs in one outing and over half as many hits, as his ERA jumped to 3.00. With new Red Sox team president Dave Dombrowski looking on from the owner's box, the question must have crossed his mind: Is free-agent-to-be Cueto worthy of a $125 million deal over the long term? The Royals have been keeping close tabs on Cueto's health, trying to keep his balky elbow, lat and oblique warm and loose as they make a push for the best record in the American League. Cueto and the Reds appeared on a path for the World Series in 2012 and led the Giants, 2-0, in the NLDS. Cueto could never recover from his oblique strain in Game 1 and the Reds collapsed to the eventual World Series champs. The next year, Cueto took the bump for the Reds in the wild card game in Pittsburgh and famously dropped the ball on the mound in the middle of a roaring Pirates crowd at PNC Park. Friday night may have been a one-game aberration and, in fairness to Cueto, the normally sure-handed Royals kicked the ball around the field like the Bad News Bears, costing Cueto at least three runs. "He's been doing a great job since we got him," said center fielder Lorenzo Cain who, in the fourth inning, misplayed a Rusney Castillo ball into a triple and booted a Mookie Betts single in the fourth inning to allow a run to score. "Unfortunately, speaking for myself, I played terrible," Cain added. "I wish I could've done a better job of making plays behind him but unfortunately I didn't. That's the kind of outcome you get." "No aspect of our game was tremendously good tonight," Yost said. "Just one of those nights." Cueto agreed: "That's part of the game. We have a real good defense. It's just one of those days, man."