PHOENIX | It only seems Reagan was president the last time the Royals could activate cruise control in the late innings of an easy victory. It’s been awhile, though.
This certainly qualified.
The Royals roughed up and knocked out Randy Johnson in under five innings Saturday and rolled to a 12-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
Homers by John Buck, David DeJesus and Mike Aviles fueled a 17-hit attack that eased the sting of Friday’s 1-0 loss in 10 innings. Aviles also had two doubles and a single in raising his average to .361.
The beneficiary was Luke Hochevar, and he was long overdue for help — he entered the game weighed down by the worst run support for any regular starter in either league. The 11 runs Saturday matched the total support from his last seven starts.
Hochevar, 4-5, got his first victory since May 14 by limiting Arizona to two earned runs in seven innings. He scattered 10 hits while striking out six and walking none.
Jeff Fulchino worked a one-two-three eighth inning before Carlos Rosa, in his big-league debut, closed out the victory with three quick outs.
It was the Royals’ first no-sweat victory since Brian Bannister beat the Indians 6-1 on June 1. Before that, you have to go back to May 18, when Zack Greinke beat the Marlins 9-3.
For this one night, at least, the Royals swung the bats with ferocity. They set season highs in runs, hits and with eight extra-base hits. They had five doubles in addition to their three homers.
José Guillen started things with an RBI single in the first. Aviles’ RBI double fueled a three-run third. Buck’s three-run homer capped a four-run fifth that finished Johnson and extended the lead to 8-2.
DeJesus and Aviles opened the sixth with successive homers against ex-teammate Billy Buckner, who got the victory Friday when Chad Tracy hit a walk-off homer in the 10th inning.
The Royals added single runs in the seventh and eighth against Edgar Gonzalez.
The back-to-back homers were the first by the Royals since Billy Butler and Jason LaRue on July 3, 2007 in the first inning of a 17-3 victory over Seattle at Kauffman Stadium.
Johnson, now 44, scarcely resembled the feared Big Unit who won five Cy Young Awards from 1995-2002. He lasted just 4 1/3 innings and gave up eight runs and 10 hits. His record fell to 4-4 and his ERA jumped to 4.76.
Hochevar’s best effort came in the sixth after the Diamondbacks put runners at first and third with no outs. He escaped unscathed by retiring the next three hits on a fly to short left, a strikeout and a ground out.
The Royals nicked Johnson for one run in the first after Aviles lined a one-out double past center fielder Chris Young. Guillen flared a soft two-out single into left for a 1-0 lead.
Johnson pitched around Buck’s leadoff double in the second. Buck moved to third on Ross Gload’s fly to deep right but had to hold on Joey Gathright’s squibber in front of the plate. The inning ended when Hochevar struck out.
That missed chance allowed the Diamondbacks to pull even in their second. Mark Reynolds sliced a two-out single into right, and Miguel Montero followed with an RBI double into right-field corner.
The Royals answered immediately with three runs in the third.
DeJesus led off with up the middle just past shortstop Stephen Drew. Aviles followed with his second double. This one scored DeJesus, and Aviles took third on an errant relay throw home by Drew.
Alex Gordon made it 3-1 with an RBI grounder to second before Guillen singled on a slow roller up the first-base line. Grudzielanek then lined a dart toward third that Reynolds knocked down with a leap.
Reynolds had time to get Guillen, who slowed down in belief the ball would be caught. But Reynolds threw to first — and threw wildly. The ball bounded into the big foul ground, and Guillen came all the way around.
A two-out throwing error by Aviles helped the D-Backs get one run back in their third. Drew reached safely on the error, and scored when Orlando Hudson and Conor Jackson followed with singles.
The Royals knocked out Johnson in a four-run fifth.
Aviles started it, again, with a single to left and went to third on Gordon’s single. Guillen got his second RBI on a fielder’s-choice grounder and moved to second on Grudzielanek’s infield single.
Buck finished Johnson by punching an 88-mph fastball — think the Big Unit has lost something? — just over the right-field wall for his first homer since April 30.
The Royals led 8-2.
When DeJesus and Aviles went deep against Buckner, the Royals finally had a laugher.