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Johnny Cueto shines in Game 5 as Royals advance past Astros to the ALCS

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It’ll be the Kansas City Royals doing battle with the Toronto Blue Jays in this year’s American League Championship Series.

Johnny Cueto turned in a vintage-yet-surprising performance in Game 5 of the ALDS on Wednesday night in Kansas City, holding the visiting Astros to two runs over eight innings as the Royals marched to a 7-2 victory and advanced to the best-of-seven ALCS.

Cueto gave up a two-run homer to Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena in the top of the second inning but he was otherwise brilliant, whiffing eight, walking none, and retiring the final 19 batters he faced. This from a guy who posted a 4.76 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 81 1/3 innings after being acquired from the Reds in July. He also got bashed for four runs in six innings by the Astros three games earlier in the best-of-five Division Series.

Houston starter Collin McHugh looked strong in the early going on Wednesday, but Eric Hosmer drove in Lorenzo Cain in the bottom of the fourth inning when Carlos Gomez slipped in center field and Alex Rios smacked a go-ahead two-run double in the bottom of the fifth. Ben Zobrist then added the Royals’ fourth run on a sacrifice fly that scored Rios from third. Zobrist, a deadline acquisition like Cueto, also made a terrific tracking-back catch at second base in the top of the eighth.

Kansas City wasn’t done making bold statements yet, with Kendrys Morales adding three more runs on a towering blast against Astros ace Dallas Keuchel in the bottom of the eighth.

Cueto probably could have finished it off himself — he only needed 91 pitches to get through eight — but Royals manager Ned Yost turned to dominant right-hander Wade Davis in the top of the ninth and the newly-anointed closer retired all three batters he faced.

Our prediction for this upcoming ALCS: lots and lots of blue.

Yankees place Aaron Judge (strained calf) on IL

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Yankees star Aaron Judge was placed on the injured list with a right calf strain before Friday night’s game against Boston and manager Aaron Boone is optimistic the outfielder will not miss significant time.

The move was retroactive to Wednesday and Boone described the strain as mild after an MRI revealed the injury. To replace Judge on the roster, Thairo Estrada was recalled from the Yankees’ alternate site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Judge began Friday leading the majors with nine homers and tied with Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the major league lead with 20 RBIs.

“It’s something that I think he really wants to try and work through here and kind of wants to be out here and feels like it’s a day-to-day thing which it may very well be, but I just think obviously it goes without saying how important a player Aaron is to us,” Boone said.

Boone had said last weekend’s series on the artificial turf in Tampa Bay took its toll on the 6-foot-7 outfielder.

Judge joined Giancarlo Stanton as the second Yankees slugger to land on the injured list this. Stanton was placed on the IL with a strained hamstring after getting hurt in the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader.

“We’ve lost two MVP-caliber players,” Boone said. “Obviously that is a blow, especially two guys that playing well as they are right now.”

Judge was pulled for a pinch hitter during Tuesday night’s win over Atlanta and didn’t play Wednesday. The Yankees were off Thursday.

The 28-year-old All-Star missed time during July’s training camp because of a stiff neck.

The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year hit 27 homers in each of the last two seasons, both of them interrupted by injuries. His right wrist was broken when he was hit by a pitch in 2018 and he went on the injured list for two months last year with a left oblique strain.

Judge was diagnosed with a broken rib in March and would not have been ready for the season opener if the season began as scheduled on March 26.