Royals top Astros in ALDS Game 5: Five things to know

On Wednesday night in Kansas City, the Royals defeated the Astros in Game 5 of the ALDS by a score of 7-2 (box score). As such, the Royals will move on to the ALCS to face the Blue Jays, while the Astros will commence their offseason. When it comes to Game 5, here are the biggest takeaways ... 

1. Johnny Cueto had one of his best starts as a Royal. 

Cueto after the July 26 trade that brought him to Kansas City pitched well below his established standards. In 13 regular-season starts for the Royals, Cueto pitched to an ERA of 4.76 and an FIP of 4.06. On Wednesday night in Game 5, however, he did this ... 

Of his 91 pitches on the night, 62 went for strikes. As well, Cueto retired the last 19 batters he faced, which put him in exclusive postseason company ... 

In terms of Game Score, a quick-and-dirty Bill James metric that measures a pitcher's dominance (or lack thereof) in a given start, Cueto registered a 78 in Game 5. That's his second-highest mark as a Royal (his complete-game shutout of the Tigers on Aug. 10 was good for an 87). On the night, Cueto commanded five different pitches, including 10 of 12 changeups for strikes and six of nine sliders for strikes (via Brooks Baseball). All the while he went to his usual lengths to keep hitters off-balance by speeding up or slowing down his delivery. That was the Cueto the Royals acquired before the deadline. 

2. Collin McHugh had one of this shortest starts of the season.

McHugh lasted just four innings on Wednesday night, and over that span he gave up three runs on five hits. That made one of his shortest outings of the season. Just twice in 32 regular season starts did McHugh have a shorter outing than his Game 5 effort. 

3. A.J. Hinch's decision to use Dallas Keuchel in relief didn't turn out well. 

Game 5 followed up an off day, so the Astros' bullpen was reasonably fresh, at least by the standards of mid-October. In the disastrous Game 4, four Houston relivers combined for 78 pitches, but, again, the team was off Tuesday. Sure, McHugh's short outing noted above added to the load, but was Keuchel, who was two days of rest removed from throwing 124 pitches in Game 3, the best choice? That Game 3 tally was Keuchel's highest single-game pitch count since May 19 of last year. Sure, no one says a word if Keuchel thrives on Wednesday, but working a high-leverage, high-stress spot on two days' rest and after throwing almost 3,700 pitches in 2015 may have been too much to ask. 

4. The Astros have been vindicated. 

The Astros and particularly GM Jeff Luhnow took a lot of heat for undertaking a "salt the grounds of Carthage" rebuild and populating his baseball ops staff with some unconventional hires. Well, it worked, and it's working. The Astros added 16 wins to their 2014 win total and made the playoffs just two seasons removed from a 111-loss campaign. They're also not going anywhere for a long time. The outcome of Game 5 was lacerating from the Houston standpoint, but the 2015 season was a stunning success by any reasonable standard.  

5. The ALCS is going to be a heavyweight bout. 

In the regular season, the Royals and Blue Jays combined for 188 wins and a run differential of plus-304. They were the best teams in the American League, and it's not a close call. Toronto took four of seven from the Royals in the regular season (augury of things to come?), and let's recall that the last time these two teams got together, hostilties were also in attendance ... 

This is going to be one terrifically compelling ALCS.

Game 5 of the ALDS belonged to Johnny Cueto, mostly.
Game 5 of the ALDS belonged to Johnny Cueto, mostly. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Writer

Dayn Perry has been a baseball writer for CBS Sports since early 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for FOXSports.com and ESPN.com. He's the author of three books, the most recent being Reggie Jackson: The... Full Bio

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