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So good in ALDS, Johnny gets call for Game 3

TORONTO -- Veteran righty Johnny Cueto made good on his Game 5 guarantee in the American League Division Series. Now he goes again, this time on Monday against Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1, with game time slated for 8 p.m.), and with the same ace-like expectations that accompanied his arrival in Kansas City at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Cueto will have the opportunity to pitch the Royals to a commanding 3-0 series lead following Kansas City's come-from-behind 6-3 victory on Saturday. He pitched against the Blue Jays once this season, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with two walks and seven strikeouts across six innings in a July 31 loss in Toronto.

Cueto sure pitched like an ace on Wednesday, with a masterful eight-inning performance. He retired each of his final 19 batters to dispatch the Astros with ease in a winner-take-all matchup that ended in a champagne bath as a roaring home crowd chanted his name.

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"Game No. 5 was a decisive game," Cueto said. "You win, you keep going. You lose, you go home. And my mentality was I'm going to give it everything I've got as long as I can.

"And this game is very similar. My approach is going to be the same, and I'll give it all I've got as long as I can."

Not since Aug. 15, when he celebrated his home debut with a four-hit shutout of the Angels, had the fans showered him with so much love as they did Wednesday, when Cueto showcased max effort throughout.

"He knew the magnitude of the game, I think we all did, and he came out from the first pitch, just had everything going," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

The righty struck out eight on the day, his only mistake being flung into the air for a two-run homer off the bat of Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena. He didn't allow a baserunner thereafter, earning his first postseason win in five tries.

This was the Cueto the Royals hadn't seen since sending three pitchers to the Reds for his services on July 26. For 13 weeks, he struggled, going 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA, including a winless five-start stretch in which he compiled a 9.57 ERA. Video: [email protected] Gm5: Cueto retires final 19 batters he faces

"Thank God the staff gave me the opportunity to pitch that game," Cueto said. "But I never lost confidence. That was a game I was scheduled to pitch and that was a game we needed to win as an organization and as a team. Thank God it worked out."

Jane Lee is a reporter for Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.
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