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Midseason acquisitions to square off in Astros-Royals series
Two pitchers who were largely disappointments after midseason trades will square off Friday when the Houston Astros meet the Royals in Kansas City in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
Houston left-hander Scott Kazmir will oppose Cincinnati right-hander Johnny Cueto.
The Astros won the series opener 5-2 Thursday night in Kansas City.
With Astros ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel unavailable until Game 3 on Sunday in Houston after pitching six shutout innings Tuesday in the AL wild-card game against the New York Yankees, manager A.J. Hinch decided to go with Kazmir for the second game in Kauffman Stadium.
“He’s pitched very well against the Royals this year,” Hinch, referring to Kazmir’s 1-1 record and 2.11 ERA in three starts vs. Kansas City this year. “This is a good ballpark for him to pitch in. This is a big stage. He’s been there before. Left-handed pitching against their balanced lineup was something that I looked heavily on.”
Kazmir, acquired by Houston in late July in exchange for two minor league pitchers, went 2-6 with a 4.17 ERA in 13 starts for the Astros. He was particularly poor down the stretch as Houston fought to clinch a playoff berth, going 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA in six September starts.
Before getting dealt, he was 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA in 18 starts for Oakland.
“It hasn’t been his best September, but as we get into October, trust your players come up big in the big moments,” Hinch said.
Cueto, acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in late July for left-hander Brandon Finnegan and two minor league pitchers, went 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts for Kansas City.
“I have never gone through something like this before,” Cueto said through an interpreter. “That season is over. This is a new season. And you’ll get to see what Johnny Cueto is all about.”
In 19 starts for Cincinnati earlier this year, Cueto went 7-6 with a 2.62 ERA. He did not face the Astros this season.
Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez, expected back in the lineup after sitting out the start in Game 1 due to an intercostal strain, has four hits, including two homers, in 12 career at-bats against Cueto. Houston outfielder Colby Ramsus is 9-for-27 (.333) with one homer and five RBIs vs. Cueto.
Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer owns a .391 average (9-for-23) against Kazmir. Both left fielder Alex Gordon (6-for-34, .176) and center fielder Lorenzo Cain (4-for-24, .167) struggle against the lefty.