KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Johnny Cueto delivered a masterpiece on his biggest stage yet, pitching eight dominant innings Wednesday night and leading the never-say-die Royals to a 7-2 victory over the Astros and back to the American League Championship Series.
Cueto allowed two hits, a single by Evan Gattis followed by Luis Valbuena's second-inning homer, before retiring the final 19 batters he faced. He struck out eight without a walk in the kind of clutch performance the Royals expected when they traded for him.
When former Ray Wade Davis breezed through the ninth, the Royals poured onto the field to celebrate.
Kansas City trailed 2-1 in the fifth when Alex Rios led another comeback with a go-ahead two-run double. Eric Hosmer and former Ray Ben Zobrist also drove in runs, and Kendrys Morales capped the festive night with a three-run homer off Dallas Keuchel in the eighth to put it away.
Kansas City has won 10 of its past 13 playoff games at home.
The Astros actually seemed poised to bounce back from their meltdown Sunday, when they blew a four-run, eighth-inning lead. They bolted to the lead in front of a charged Kansas City crowd thanks to a rare series of Royals defensive lapses.
With two outs in the second, Gattis sent a slow hopper down the line that third baseman Mike Moustakas fielded cleanly. But with plenty of time, his throw across the infield went wide, and first baseman Hosmer had the ball pop from his glove as he tried to make a swipe tag.
On the next pitch, Valbuena sent a two-run homer into the Astros bullpen.
It wasn't until the fourth that Kansas City got a run back, on back-to-back singles by Lorenzo Cain and Hosmer. But by the fifth, the Royals had figured out Collin McHugh's darting curveball.
Salvador Perez was hit by a pitch, and Alex Gordon hit a ground-rule double to right. Mike Fiers relieved, and Rios sent a double bouncing down the chalk of the third-base line, scoring two.
After a sacrifice bunt, Zobrist's lazy sacrifice fly made it 4-2.