Royals right-hander goes distance in Game 2, first time since '91 Classic
By Alyson Footer
KANSAS CITY -- Johnny Cueto's two-hit complete game in a 7-1 win in Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday not only helped the Royals gain a 2-0 edge in the best-of-seven series, but it carried a bit of historical context, too.
It was the first complete game thrown by an American League pitcher in the World Series in 24 years -- the first since Jack Morris' epic outing in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series between the Twins and Braves that eventually gave Minnesota the title.
Morris, working this postseason as an analyst for MLB.com, was surprised to hear this was the first one since then.
"I didn't know I was the last American League guy to do that," Morris said. "I had no clue. It doesn't make sense."
Especially when considering that over those 24 years, eight National League pitchers have thrown complete games in the World Series -- most recently, the Giants' Madison Bumgarner in Game 5 last year.
There may not be a logical explanation for why there is such a gap between the two leagues -- eight for the NL, none for the AL -- but examining the history from the AL side shows that not only did these used to happen pretty often, the Royals alone made their mark in this category in one postseason, three decades ago.
Prior to Cueto's outing, the Royals had recorded three complete games in a World Series -- all in 1985. Bret Saberhagen threw two of them. In Game 3, he allowed six hits and one run in a 6-1 win over the Cardinals. Five days later, Saberhagen shut out St. Louis in the seventh and decisive game, holding the Cards to five hits in a 92-pitch masterpiece.
Saberhagen had company that year. Danny Jackson pitched Game 5, allowing one run on five hits in a complete-game effort that netted the Royals a 6-1 win.
The Royals, who will continue the World Series with Game 3 on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8 p.m. game time) now have a fourth to add to the collection. Cueto, who has allowed one earned run over his past 15 innings at Kauffman Stadium, is the first pitcher to toss at least nine innings and allow no more than two hits in a World Series since Greg Maddux of the Braves in Game 1 of the 1995 World Series against the Indians.
"Tonight was everything we expected Johnny to be," manager Ned Yost said. "He was on the attack. He kept the ball down. He changed speeds. It was just a spectacular performance by him."
The lack of complete games in the AL over the past couple of decades could be partly attributed to the simple fact that the game has changed over time. Pitch counts, wariness of injury, specialized bullpens and expensive contracts have all contributed to clubs taking more careful routes with starting pitchers.
Also, pitchers were just given more leeway generations ago. Consider Saberhagen's outing in Game 7 in 1985 -- his team had a huge lead early and won, 11-0, yet still, he was allowed to finish what he started. On Wednesday, Cueto was only permitted to go back out for the ninth after the Royals further padded their lead with three more runs in the eighth.
In 1991, Morris kept pitching in a scoreless game that wasn't decided until the Twins finally scored in the 10th. That leash probably wouldn't be as long today.
"I threw two complete games in the '84 World Series, and I was looking for a Game 7 because I wanted to do three," Morris said. "That would never happen anymore. My game in '91 was the third start of the World Series for me. I hadn't completed either one of the first two starts, and I had a lot left in the tank. I think [Twins manager] Tom Kelly was willing to be rolling the dice with me. I have to give him credit too, because he could have taken me out."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.