KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chicago White Sox starter Johnny Cueto has pitched for winning teams throughout his career, including the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals.
After another night of missed opportunities in an 8-3 loss Wednesday against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, the Red Sox were left wondering what it would take to display the consistency many had hoped for all year.
“I think we have to be more aggressive and show more arrogance,” Cueto said through an interpreter. “We need to go out there and play and play hard and show what we can do.
“We need to fight. We need to show the fight, we need to show the fire that we have, if we have any.”
The Sox broke through offensively with three runs in the top of the sixth to take a two-run lead. The Royals tied the game in the bottom of the sixth and went ahead in the seventh on MJ Melendez’s solo homer off Jake Diekman. They walked away with four in the eighth.
“I look at it like we have a two-run lead and it’s part of the game,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “A few times we’ve had plays that started with a ball hitting a bag or a blooper. It happened for them.”
The Sox trailed 1-0 when they loaded the bases with one out in the sixth.
Gavin Sheets, who flied out to left in a similar situation at second, grounded out to second with an exit velocity of 106.1 mph. Michael Massey was unable to cleanly field the hard-hit ball and two runs were scored on the play, which was originally ruled a hit before being changed to an error.
The Red Sox added a third run on a two-out RBI single by Josh Harrison.
The Royals responded with two in the bottom of the sixth.
Bobby Witt Jr. reached on an infield single, beating the throw from third after a light double clutch by Yoán Moncada. Witt scored from first with a double by Salvador Pérez.
Pérez advanced to third on a throwing error by Moncada, who made a good fielding play on Hunter Dozier’s groundout but threw wide of first baseman José Abreu. Pérez scored on a two-out single by Massey.
“I fought,” Cueto said. “Only two ground balls that unfortunately Moncada could not finish off those plays. But I kept fighting. I did what I could.”
Cueto allowed three runs (two earned) on nine hits with four strikeouts and one walk in six innings.
“Part of baseball,” La Russa said. “And he almost got thrown. It’s a tough way to get guys on base. A difficult way to leave races from Johnny’s perspective.”
Diekman has been effective since the Red Sox acquired him in a trade from the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 1, retiring 10 of 12 batters faced with six strikeouts in his first four starts.
He allowed Melendez’s home run on a 1-2 pitch.
The Royals added the safe runs in the eighth against Jimmy Lambert, who hadn’t allowed a run in his last 12 starts.
“Diekman made a mistake and (Melendez) knocked it out of the park,” La Russa said. “And then he got away from us in the eighth inning. This was not the way Lambert has been pitching. He is still very good. As soon as he rests, he’ll be back out there again.”
The Sox didn’t produce anything offensively outside of the sixth. While Royals starter Kris Bubic disregarded the decision, he lowered his career ERA against the Red Sox to 2.72 in seven outings (six starts) after allowing one earned run on seven hits in 5⅔ innings.
“You look my whole life, this guy has been tough on us,” La Russa said. “We got all three, he was proud of that. Even the first time Sheets hit the ball to left field, he couldn’t score. And he hit the bullet (in the sixth). (They) pitched well against us, but we had a chance to win that game. He just walked away from us.
The Red Sox fell back to a game over .500 at 56-55. They are in third place in the AL Central, 2 1/2 games out of first place.
“Not yet,” La Russa said of sustained success, “doesn’t mean you can’t and won’t.”
He thinks he’s still coming for the Red Sox.
“Because I know what’s here,” he said. “If we didn’t have that, we would have been buried a long time ago. The fact that we are still struggling and struggling tells you that we can make something good happen that is consistent.”