3 keys for Royals to even ALDS

3 keys for Royals to even ALDS

KANSAS CITY -- Being down one game in a Division Series is not an insurmountable deficit, according to Royals manager Ned Yost.

But the previous eight teams to win Game 1 of the American League Division Series have all gone on to win the series. So how does Kansas City break that trend?

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The Royals will need to start by salvaging Friday's game (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) to even the series. Here are three things that need to happen for them to win.

Cueto moves past early struggles with Royals

1. Johnny be good
The Royals acquired right-hander Johnny Cueto to be the October ace. Instead, they went with Yordano Ventura in Game 1, so now Cueto must act as the stopper. The key will be for him to shut down the Astros early, something Ventura could not do as he dug a 3-0 hole on Thursday. Members of Kansas City's front office talked before the game about the need to start quick, get a lead and try to reduce the game to five or six innings before the club could go to its vaunted bullpen. So Cueto, who has been better the past four starts, needs to command his pitches and keep Houston off the board. That will give the Royals' offense a boost to take command of the game.

Game Date Result
Gm 1 Oct. 8 HOU 5, KC 2
Gm 2 Oct. 9 KC 5, HOU 4
Gm 3 Oct. 11 HOU 4, KC 2
Gm 4 Oct. 12 KC 9, HOU 6
Gm 5 Oct. 14 KC 7, HOU 2

2. Get some hits
Kendrys Morales was the extent of the Royals' offense on Thursday, slamming two home runs. But the rest of the bats fizzled against Astros starter Collin McHugh and the bullpen. While Kansas City hitters made McHugh work through two innings, forcing him to throw 40 pitches, they started hacking after the rain delay and McHugh cruised through six. That can't happen again on Friday. The group of hitters that carried the Royals in the postseason last year -- Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon -- went just 2-for-23 in the opener, which was unacceptable. Kansas City has a tall order against left-hander Scott Kazmir, who has struggled lately, but was 1-1 with a 2.11 ERA against the Royals in three starts this year. To beat him requires patience -- not exactly a strength for Kansas City.

3. Use the crowd
It sounds easy enough, but the Royals never really got the crowd going in Game 1 -- at least not like it was during the 2014 postseason run. The team fed off the energy in last year's AL Wild Card Game and in the ALDS and AL Championship Series. But that energy was mostly absent Thursday, and it wasn't the crowd's fault. Kansas City fell behind early, and the only excitement really came from Chris Young's strikeouts (seven) and the two homers from Morales. Give the crowd a chance and it could carry the Royals to a win and an even series after Game 2.

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.