When the White Sox signed Johnny Cueto they were hoping to add some depth to the starting rotation and get a pitcher to eat innings while Lance Lynn was on the IL. In six starts Cueto has exceeded expectations.
The 36-year-old has been able to go six-plus innings in every start he has made. For a White Sox rotation that has struggled to make it past the fifth inning, Cueto has been able to take some stress off the bullpen every fifth day.
Even when he isn’t scheduled to start he has helped eat innings. On June 12th he volunteered to enter the game as a reliever after Michael Kopech left the game with an injury in the first inning. With the bullpen running on fumes, Cueto was able to provide the White Sox with five innings, giving them a chance to win.
Starters going deep into games has been a point of emphasis for the White Sox. The bullpen has been taxed in the past couple of weeks. Chicago relievers have had to throw four innings or more in 38 of 62 games this season.
Before Friday’s game against the Houston Astros, the bullpen had logged 42 and 2/3 innings in just seven games. After an off day, they picked up right where they left off. Lucas Giolito was only able to go five innings, leaving the last four for the bullpen to cover. All that mileage adds up come October. The White Sox have already seen injuries to Aaron Bummer, Joe Kelly, and Liam Hendriks. Being overworked does not help.
Not only has Cueto been able to go deep into games, but he has also turned in quality starts. He threw six scoreless in his White Sox debut against Kansas City, then followed that up with another six scoreless against the Yankees. He was able to give the White Sox six innings of three-run ball against the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Cueto has tossed a quality start in five of his six outings. Saturday afternoon was no different.
After getting steamrolled 13-3 the night before the White Sox were faced with the daunting task of going up against Justin Verlander. Verlander owned a 2.32 ERA with 107 strikeouts in 13 starts this season. On paper, it looked like the Astros had a clear advantage. But Johnny Cueto had other ideas.
Cueto dazzled through seven scoreless innings. He only allowed two hits, two walks, and struck out five. He lowered his ERA to 2.95 for the season. Cueto was able to keep a star-studded Astros offense off-balance with a variety of deliveries and offspeed pitches.
Three of his five strikeouts came courtesy of the changeup while the other two were via a slider and a sinker.
Johnny Cueto set the tone. pic.twitter.com/u77CJIi2sN
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) June 19, 2022
“Johnny Cueto can pitch,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said after the game. “I had him as a kid when he was pitching 96-97 and he is pitching the same way. He has real good control, and he has a number of pitches. I guess he has been watching some Tiant film because he was like a mini-Tiant today.”
Cueto’s performance earned him his first win of the season and snapped a seven-game losing streak for the White Sox at Minute Maid Park.The offense helped him out by lighting up Justin Verlander for seven runs. Reynaldo Lopez slammed the door in the final two innings to secure the victory.
Micheal Kopech has easily been the White Sox best starter this season, but he has only made it into through the sixth inning three times. Kopech has also reached the seventh inning just once in 11 games.
Dylan Cease has made it past the fifth inning just three times and is averaging just 5.2 innings a start. Meanwhile, Lucas Giolito has only made it past five innings in four of his 11 starts. He is also averaging just 5.2 innings a start.
It is now up to the rest of the starting rotation to follow Cueto’s lead and try and make it past the fifth inning.