KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Luke. Luke. Luke. What are the Royals going to do with you? The Royals produced their two highest run outputs of the season in your last two starts — and you couldn't last the necessary five innings either time to get the victory.
The Royals again overcame Hochevar's give-back problems Saturday night in slugging their way to a 13-6 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium.
"If I knew (what it was)," Hochevar said, "it wouldn't be happening. When you go through stretches like this, you've just got to continue to stay confident and trust your stuff — which I feel I've been doing.
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"It's just that something's happening, and I need to figure it out."
Two other things stood out.
The top four hitters in the Royals' lineup — Chris Getz, Melky Cabrera, Alex Gordon and Billy —- went a combined 9 for 17 with six runs and eight RBIs. Gordon capped a five-run third against Detroit starter Charlie Furbush with a three-run homer.
"That's what the top of the lineup is there for," Butler said. "You don't get it every night, but it's good when we're all on the same page. That's what can happen."
The Tigers also made two costly errors that led to eight unearned runs. Shortstop Ramon Santiago booted a two-out grounder in the third that preceded those five runs, and second baseman Ryan Raburn dropped a one-out pop in a three-run sixth.
"At any level," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said, "when you score six runs, you're supposed to win. When you don't, that means obviously a combination of two things: You didn't pitch very well, and you didn't play good defense."
Those lapses countered another shaky performance by Hochevar, whose big-inning bugaboo bit hard again. Presented with a 4-0 lead through two innings, he gave two back in the third. It could have been worse, but for a great catch by Getz on a liner to second.
And then, after the Royals stretched their lead to 9-2 later in the inning, Hochevar surrendered four more runs in fourth before exiting with two outs and the bases loaded. Greg Holland stranded three runners by retiring Don Kelly on a fly to center.
"I don't like using Holland in the fourth inning," Royals manager Ned Yost said, "but they had the bases loaded, and they were coming. They were on the attack, and we had to bring in one of our better guys right there to shut it down."
This isn't an isolated problem for Hochevar.
He carried a 6-0 lead into the fifth of his last start at Colorado but surrendered five runs and failed to survive the inning. The problem on that occasion stemmed from tightness in his lower back, which surfaced after a slide at second base.
The Royals went on that day to win 16-8.
Hochevar also had notable collapses April 20 against Cleveland, May 25 at Baltimore and June 1 against the Angels. The damage this time was six runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings, which spiked his ERA to 5.46.
"Obviously," Hochevar said, "something is going on the second or third time through the lineup. Something is happening. My focus, my approach and my execution, I think, doesn't waver. So, something is happening.
"Whether it's my mixture, whether I'm falling into patterns... whatever it is, there's something there, and I need to figure it out and get back to helping the ballclub."
The Royals plan to meet today with Hochevar in hopes of finding a solution, but Yost made it clear that Hochevar remains a fixture in the rotation.
"At times," Yost said, "it looks like he gets like a boxer - when he gets a little (ticked) off, he starts throwing haymakers instead of continuing to box. There could be a few things, but we'll continue to search and figure it out.
"Because his stuff is way too good (for this to keep happening)."
The bullpen rescued Hochevar with Holland and Everett Teaford combining for 5 1/3 scoreless innings. Holland (3-1) got the victory with 2 1/3 scoreless innings that lowered his ERA to 1.08. Teaford got his first career save by retiring nine of 10 hitters.
"It was nice to be able to save the bullpen," Teaford said, "and not have to have anybody come in. Now, we have all the guns ready for (today)."
The victory provides the Royals (37-53) with a chance to split the four-game series by winning today's finale. All they have to do is beat Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who is 11-2 against them after allowing one run and two runs in eight innings on May 13 in Detroit.
"We know we have a tough challenge," Gordon said, "because he was pretty dominant against us the last time we faced him. But maybe we can use that as motivation and pay him back a little bit."