It was Cueto's second quality start in as many opportunities since being acquired from the Reds, but he remained winless with his new club.
"I thought he was great," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He had all of his pitches working, had a really good slider, really good changeup, spotted his fastball well."
Cueto's only mistake, according to his manager, was a cutter he left over the plate in the third inning. Anthony Gose, who had only one extra-base hit over his previous 17 games, drove the 89-mph offering over Lorenzo Cain -- who was playing shallow in center field -- for a run-scoring triple.
"[I didn't] expect Johnny to throw him a pitch that he could hit over [Cain's] head," Yost said, adding that Cueto was otherwise "fantastic."
Yost's expectations for the Gose at-bat were backed by the numbers. Cueto entered Wednesday with lefties hitting just .176 against him, but Gose and Tyler Collins -- both lefties -- recorded extra-base knocks against Cueto in the third.
The only other run Cueto allowed came in the fourth inning, when a groundout off the bat of designated hitter Victor Martinez plated Ian Kinsler, who reached with a triple.
"[Cueto] kept us in the game," said first baseman Eric Hosmer. "As an offense, we have to do a better job. We have to try and find ways to produce runs. All we ask for is for him to go out, eat up innings and keep us in the game, and he did a good job of that."
Cueto, who yielded three runs over six frames in his Royals debut against the Blue Jays last Friday, said he and catcher Salvador Perez had a better rapport on Wednesday. That battery was tested in the fifth inning, when Detroit put two on with one out, but Cueto got ahead of Gose with a slider and struck him out with a heater, then induced an inning-ending ground ball.
"I just need to relax and take a step back and make good pitches," Cueto said through a team interpreter. "I realized I need to make a good pitch to get the out, and that's what I did."
And while the loss wasn't ideal, Cueto's performance didn't disappoint.
"I'm not frustrated at all," he said. "I just need to keep doing my job, and the club will take care of the rest."