Houston - RHP Collin McHugh: 19-7, 3.89 ERA (3.58 FIP), 203.2 innings, 171 SO, 53 BB, 13.7 K-BB%
McHugh was fantastic in Game 1, especially when you consider he waited out a rain delay that lasted almost an hour after throwing two innings and then pitching four more. Outside of two Kendrys Morales homers, McHugh allowed no runs on two hits and one walk. Certainly, McHugh will have a tweaked game plan ready for Morales, who also smoked a liner to George Springer in right field on the final batter of McHugh's outing.
Perhaps the key to McHugh's outing, though, was the scoreless first inning, where he worked around a one out Ben Zobrist single. McHugh's 6.47 first inning ERA in the regular season was by far his worst inning. Houston fans should be encouraged again tonight if he posts a zero in the first.
However, working against McHugh is that Kansas City has seen him. Game 1 was the first time the Royals had seen McHugh in 2015. Although KC did not have much success, they likely can formulate a better approach coming into this fifth and decisive game.
Outside of Dallas Keuchel, this is the guy Houston wants on the mound for tonight's game. He's pitching well and with plenty of confidence. He's also already experienced the frenzy at Kauffman Stadium that awaits him again tonight.
Postseason experience: One start: 3.00 ERA, 6 innings, 1 SO, 1 BB
McHugh's last outing: Game 1 of ALDS (Thurs.): 6 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 1 BB, 1 SO (win). Will be pitching on five days rest.
Kansas City - RHP Johnny Cueto: 11-13, 3.44 ERA (3.53 FIP), 212 innings, 176 SO, 46 BB, 15.0 K-BB%
As discussed when Cueto started Game 2, the 29-year-old Dominican has been a disappointment for the Royals since joining midseason from Cincinnati. Trailing 1-0 in the series, Cueto was nothing special as Houston -- mainly Colby Rasmus -- got to Cueto for four runs on seven hits and three walks in six innings.
Rasmus laced an RBI double off Cueto in the first inning and followed with a long solo homer in the third inning. In between, George Springer fisted a two-run single into left field in the second inning. Houston had Cueto on the ropes, scoring four runs in three innings off the righty, but Cueto was able to settle down and finish six innings as the Houston bullpen followed with an implosion.
However, the leash is likely shorter for Cueto tonight as the Kansas City Star's outstanding beat writer, Andy McCollough wrote about yesterday.
"If he's throwing the ball good and we're comfortable with his stuff, he'll stay in the game," pitching coach Dave Eiland told The Star. "If we're not comfortable with his stuff and he's not getting outs, he's coming out of the game. It's that simple. There's no such thing as ‘rope.' There's no such thing as ‘feelings.' We're trying to win a baseball game. And we're going to do whatever we have to do."
Chris Young, who was effective in relief of Yordano Ventura in Game 1, has not pitched since. Kris Medlen and Game 3 starter, Edinson Volquez, are also available.
Houston's hitters shouldn't change their approach much -- what they've been doing has gotten them this far. However, a patient approach to Cueto worked well in Game 2 and likely will work well again tonight. Like McHugh, Houston's young order was seeing Cueto for the first time in 2015 on Friday afternoon.
Many believe, and rightfully so, that Cueto has the ability to throw like an ace tonight, but that hasn't been seen in months.
Postseason experience: 4 starts: 0-2, 5.52 ERA, 14.2 innings, 8 SO, 5 BB
Cueto vs. Houston in 2015: One start (Game 2): 6 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs (all earned), 5 SO, 3 BB
Cueto last outing: Game 2 (Fri.): 6 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs (all earned), 5 SO, 3 BB. Cueto will be pitching on regular rest.
RHP Josh Fields
2015 season: 3.55 ERA, 50.2 innings, 67 SO, 19 BB. Last worked: Game 4 vs. KC (Mon.): 1.0 inning, 1 hit, 2 runs (both earned), 2 SO, 1 BB
RHP Luke Gregerson (closer)
2015 season: 3.10 ERA, 61 innings, 31 saves, 59 SO, 10 BB. Last worked: Game 4 vs. KC (Mon.): 0.2 innings, 0 runs, 1 SO, 2 BB, 2 inherited runners (1 scored). Has pitched four times in last seven days.
RHP Will Harris
2015 season: 1.90 ERA, 71 innings, 68 SO, 22 BB. Last worked: Game 4 vs. KC (Mon.): 0.2 innings, 4 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 1 SO. Has pitched four times in last seven days.
RHP Pat Neshek
2015 season: 3.62 ERA, 54.2 innings, 51 SO, 12 BB. Last worked: Game 2 at KC (Fri.): 0.2 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 SO
LHP Oliver Perez
2015 season: 4.17 ERA, 41.0 innings, 51 SO, 15 BB. Last worked: Game 2 at KC (Fri.): 0.0 innings, 2 hits, 1 run (earned).
LHP Tony Sipp
2015 season: 1.99 ERA, 54.1 innings, 62 SO, 15 BB. Last worked: Game 4 vs. KC (Mon.): 0.1 innings, 1 hit, 1 run (unearned), 1 SO. Has pitched five times in last seven days.
Starters available for relief:
RHP Mike Fiers: 3.69 ERA, 180.1 innings, 180 SO, 64 BB. Last worked: Sept. 29 at SEA (start): 5.2 innings, 5 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 1 BB, 7 SO
LHP Scott Kazmir: 3.10 ERA, 183.0 innings, 155 SO, 59 BB. Last worked: Game 2 at KC (Fri.): 5.1 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 1 BB, 4 SO
LHP Dallas Keuchel: 2.48 ERA, 232.2 innings, 216 SO, 51 BB. Last worked: Game 3 vs. KC (Sun.): 7 innings, 5 hits, 1 run (earned), 3 BB, 7 SO (124 pitches)
RHP Luke Hochevar
2015 season: 3.73 ERA, 50.2 innings, 49 SO, 16 BB. Last worked: Game 3 at HOU (Sun.): 1.2 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 2 SO
LHP Franklin Morales
2015 season: 3.18 ERA, 62.1 innings, 41 SO, 14 BB. Last worked: Oct. 4 at MIN: 1.0 inning, 1 hit, 0 runs
RHP Ryan Madson
2015 season: 2.13 ERA, 63.1 innings, 58 SO, 14 BB. Last worked: Game 4 at HOU (Mon.): 1.0 inning, 4 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 2 SO. Has pitched three times in last six days.
RHP Kelvin Herrera
2015 season: 2.71 ERA, 69.2 innings, 64 SO, 26 BB. Last worked: Game 4 at HOU (Mon.): 1.0 inning, 1 run (earned), 3 SO, 2 BB. Has pitched three times in last six days.
RHP Wade Davis (closer)
2015 season: 0.94 ERA, 67.1 innings, 78 SO, 20 BB. Last worked: Game 4 at HOU (Mon.): 2.0 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 3 SO (save).
Starters available for relief:
RHP Kris Medlen
2015 season: 4.01 ERA, 58.1 innings, 40 SO, 18 BB. Last worked: Oct. 1 at CHW (start): 6.2 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), 4 SO, 3 BB
LHP Danny Duffy
2015 season: 4.08 ERA, 136.2 innings, 102 SO, 53 BB. Last worked: Game 3 at HOU (Sun.): 0.2 innings, 1 hit, 1 run (earned).
RHP Chris Young
2015 season: 3.06 ERA, 123.1 innings, 83 SO, 43 BB. Last worked: Game 1 vs. HOU (Thurs.): 4.0 innings, 3 hits, 1 run (earned), 7 SO, 2 BB
RHP Edinson Volquez
2015 season: 3.55 ERA, 200.1 innings, 155 SO, 72 BB. Last worked: Game 3 at HOU (Sun.): 5.2 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 8 SO, 4 BB (87 pitches).