How else could Luke Hochevar’s profoundly disappointing and underachieving year come to an appropriate end? Failing to survive a 10-run inning Sunday by the Cleveland Indians? That work?
The Royals suffered through a Google-search day — i.e., when’s the last time that happened? — while absorbing a 15-3 pounding at Progressive Field. It closed out their road schedule with the biggest thud this side of Arrowhead.
“Obviously, it’s not good,” Hochevar said. “It’s not how I want to end the year. It’s not what you want for any start.”
It wasn’t all Hochevar, but he did surrender nine runs in 42/3 innings, which marked the seventh time in his 32 starts that he allowed at least seven runs. Eight of those nine runs came in a 10-run fifth inning that he failed to survive.
“There were a couple of curveballs that got hit, especially early in the counts.” Hochevar said. “I tried to combat that by coming inside a little more, and a couple of those got hit.”
Hochevar finishes the season at 8-16 with a 5.73 ERA, which begs a question: Do the Royals reassess their stated intention to retain him at a likely increase in salary through arbitration from his current $3.51 million?
“It just keeps going through my mind,” manager Ned Yost said, “that when he figures it out, we’re going to be in great shape. I thought this would be the year that he’d put it together. … Next year.”
Hochevar worked around major trouble through the first four innings before everything collapsed in a 10-run fifth. Everett Teaford didn’t help when, after inheriting two runners with two outs, he issued a walk before serving up a grand slam to Asdrubal Cabrera.
“Teaford threw (54 pitches) on the first day in here,” Yost said. “So asking him to come in and try to hold it … it was our best option with the lefties coming up. It just got away in a hurry. A 10-run fifth is not good for your business.”
Jeremy Jeffress shoveled more muck on the heap by giving up another four runs and six hits while throwing 44 pitches in 1 1/3 innings.
Here’s your Google-search results:
The last time the Royals permitted 10 runs in an inning was May 16, 2011 when the Indians scored 10 in the fourth inning of a 19-1 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
That was the night when Vin Mazzaro replaced an injured Kyle Davies and set a club record by allowing 14 runs in 21/3 innings. Mazzaro watched this one from the bullpen after getting a victory Saturday night by pitching two scoreless innings.
And the last time the Royals yielded double figures in a single inning on the road was here on Aug. 13, 2006, when the Indians produced an 11-run first inning against Luke Hudson in a 13-0 victory.
Now this. Why is it always the Indians?
The Royals, 71-88, lost for the seventh time in eight games and closed out a 1-6 trip that began with four losses at Detroit. The only victory came Saturday when the Royals, after blowing a 6-1 lead, beat the Indians 7-6 in 14 innings.
“To win like we did (Saturday) night and come back like we did today …,” right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. “We just laid an egg. Intensity stunk. It just wasn’t a good way to end the road trip.”
The Royals conclude their season this week at home with three more games against the Tigers, who have a three-game lead over second-place Chicago in the American League Central Division with three games remaining.
“We’ve got three important games coming up back home with playoff implications, so hopefully, we come out and play a heck of lot better than we played today” Francoeur said. “Today was brutal.”
Cleveland finished with 19 hits, including three by Cabrera, Jack Hannahan and Lou Marson. Shin-Soo Choo had two hits and two RBIs. Jason Kipnis and Cabrera each scored three times. There was a lot more, too. See the box score.
As Kipnis put it: “We let the bats fly today.”
Indians starter Zach McAllister, 6-8, had an easy time. It was 11-0 before he yielded Alex Gordon’s two-run homer in the sixth, and he went 62/3 innings before Tony Sipp and Frank Herrmann closed out the rout.
Let’s look at that 10-run fifth: Cleveland led 1-0 when Choo led off by lining a double over a leaping Billy Butler at first. Choo then stole third when ignored by Hochevar — even as Irving Falu broke from short for a possible pick-off play.
Kipnis hopped an RBI double over the right-field wall for a 2-0 lead. Cabrera’s bunt single moved Kipnis to third with no outs. Lonnie Chisenhall struck out, but Hannahan pulled an RBI double into the right-field corner.
After a walk to Brent Lillibridge loaded the bases, the Indians added a run on Casey Kotchman’s fielder’s-choice grounder to first. The Royals caught a break there, too. Falu was nowhere near second when he took the throw from Butler for a force.
It still went from bad to worse.
Hochevar reloaded the bases by walking Marson before forcing in a run by hitting Jason Donald with a first-pitch breaking ball. Up again came Choo, and he grounded a two-run single up the middle for a 7-0 lead on Hochevar’s final pitch of the year.
Teaford started his work with a four-pitch walk to Kipnis that reloaded the bases before Cabrera sent a 1-1 fastball over the left-field wall for a grand slam and an 11-0 lead.
“Not good,” Hochevar said. “First and foremost, when I take the mound, I want to help the team win. That’s the bottom line. I didn’t feel I helped the team win (this year) like I should.
“I’ll just take that into the off-season as more fire underneath me. I want to put it behind me, move on and do whatever I need to do in the off-season to have a big year” in 2013.