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Royals’ Hochevar still can’t find winning formula against A’s

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Thursday, August 16, 2012, at 11:32 p.m.

— Luke Hochevar was better than usual Thursday night against Oakland, a career-long nemesis, but still not good enough. He served up two homers in a 3-0 loss that kept the Royals from completing a three-game sweep at Kauffman Stadium.

Hochevar yielded homers in the sixth inning to former teammate Coco Crisp on a drive to right that required a review, and in the seventh to rookie Yoenis Cespedes that was clearly gone from the time it left the bat.

“I made those two mistakes there,” Hochevar said. “I fell behind to Coco, and I made an aggressive pitch with my fastball. Middle away. He put a good swing on it.

“Then to Cespedes, I threw two fastballs right by him on the outer half. I tried it a third time, and he caught it. It might have been up a little bit, but it wasn’t over the middle or anything.”

The Athletics also got a run in the eighth, charged to Hochevar, when Tim Collins yielded a two-out RBI single to Jemile Weeks. That was it – but it was plenty because the Royals mustered squadoosh against A’s rookie Dan Straily and four relievers.

“He threw strikes and had a good fastball,” right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. “He has good stuff. But it seemed every rally we started was with two outs. We never put any pressure on the kid to make a pitch. We let him feel comfortable.”

Straily (1-0) got his first major-league victory in his third career start. He joined the A’s earlier this month after going a combined 8-6 with a 2.60 ERA in 22 starts at Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento.

“I can’t really think of any words to describe it – just awesome,” he said. “The first one – you can only experience it one time.”

Hochevar is still waiting for that experience against the A’s. He remains winless against them at 0-8 in nine career starts after yielding three runs in seven-plus innings.

Is history a factor?

“It can’t be,” he said. “I’m just going out there and trying to execute quality pitches. It doesn’t matter who I’m facing or what the lineup is or what my history is.

“If you start thinking about that, you’ve already got an uphill climb. So you go out there and fight for every single pitch regardless of who it is, what your history is or whatever.”

Straily handed a 2-0 lead to lefty reliever Sean Doolittle with one out in the seventh and a runner at first. It was Doolittle who surrendered Chris Getz’s game-winning RBI double Wednesday when the Royals scored twice in the seventh inning in a 3-2 victory.

Doolittle started by yielding a looping single to left by Mike Moustakas before striking out Jeff Francoeur. When Eric Hosmer flicked a single into left that loaded the bases, it set up a potential rematch with Getz...

Until A’s manager Bob Melvin opted for another lefty: Jerry Blevins.

Getz sent the first pitch into short center for an easy out.

Hochevar (7-11) exited after starting the eighth with a walk to Derek Norris, a rookie from Goddard. Collins struck out Cliff Pennington and Crisp but Norris, after stealing second, scored when Weeks grounded a single into center.

Blevins struck out Jarrod Dyson to start the Royals’ eighth before Ryan Cook finished the inning. Grant Balfour closed out the victory for his ninth save in 11 chances.

The Royals had the game’s first threat when Salvy Perez reached on a one-out single in the second. Moustakas followed with a walk, but Straily retired Francoeur on a pop to short before another walk, to Hosmer, loaded the bases.

Getz grounded out to first.

The A’s didn’t get their first hit until Josh Reddick beat an overshifted infield with a one-out bunt single in the fourth. Cespedes followed by grounding into a double play.

Oakland’s second hit was Crisp’s two-out homer in the sixth inning. The ball just cleared the right-field wall before caroming back onto the field – and was initially ruled to be in play.

Crisp stopped at second, which brought Melvin onto the field. Second-base umpire Paul Nauert, who made the original call, called the crew together, which led to an instant-replay review that corrected the call.

“I thought I saw it skip off those (railing) bars out there,” Melvin said, “and that’s a home run. Coco finally got us a run. The way both guys were pitching, it felt like a little bit more than one run at the time.”

There was no replay needed an inning later when Cespedes crushed an 0-2 fastball for a 402-foot homer to left-center for a 2-0 lead.

“On most nights,” manager Ned Yost said, “you go into the eighth inning only giving up two runs, (Hochevar) is going to be in pretty darn good shape. It’s just tonight their pitcher held us down to nothing.”

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