While the Kansas City Royals need Johnny Cueto to turn things around on the mound, they also must find a way to score more runs against the Chicago White Sox.
With Cueto in danger of losing a career-worst fourth straight start, the Royals look to avoid being swept in a home series for the first time in more than a year Sunday against the White Sox.
Cueto (2-4, 4.21 ERA) went 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in his first four starts since coming over from Cincinnati on July 26, but has an 8.47 mark while losing his last three. The right-hander wasn't that bad Tuesday but still allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings of a 6-5 loss to Detroit.
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"This is obviously part of the game," Cueto said. "Every player has a streak like this. I'm not concerned because I'm well aware that this is going to turn around and I'm going to help this team."
The ever-confident Cueto yielded four runs and homers to Jose Abreu and Alexei Ramirez in 8 1-3 innings of a 10-4 win over Chicago (64-70) on May 9 while with the Reds.
Batting .536 with six RBIs in his last seven games, Ramirez belted a three-run homer in the fourth inning of Saturday's 6-1 victory.
Though the Royals (82-53) remain in excellent shape to win the AL Central, they've dropped four of six and been outscored 18-2 in the last two games after scoring 27 against Detroit in the two before that. The White Sox, trying to remain relevant in the wild-card race, totaled 21 runs while dropping seven straight at Kauffman Stadium prior to this set.
"It's really fun when you get runs," Saturday's winner Jose Quintana said.
After its string of nine straight winning home series ended Saturday, Kansas City will try to avoid being swept at Kauffman for the first time since Aug. 29-31 of last year by Cleveland. The Royals have scored one run in 16 innings against starters John Danks and Quintana in this series and went 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position Saturday.
Since going 4-3 with a 4.73 ERA in 10 starts over the previous two seasons, Erik Johnson makes his 2015 debut for Chicago. The right-hander earned International League Most Valuable Pitcher honors after going 11-8 with a 2.37 ERA and 136 strikeouts for Triple-A Charlotte this season.
"It has really been a real solid year for him and put him back on the map as a prospect," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn told MLB's official website.
Johnson, meanwhile, just plans to go about his business in the majors the way he did for his minor league club.
"For me, everything that's in my corner, everything I can control with my routine, I'm going to do," said Johnson, who is 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA against Kansas City.
Mike Moustakas, who homered for his only hit in four at-bats against Johnson, is expected to be in the Royals' lineup after not starting the last five games.
Teammate Alex Gordon is 5 for 9 with three RBIs in three games since missing almost two months with a groin injury.