Kansas City Royals

Hochevar blows another outing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Tuesday was Retro Night at Kauffman Stadium, where the intent was to recall the good times hereabouts from the 1980s; not Luke Hochevar's far more recent tease-and-destruct tendencies.

Hochevar saw another promising start crumble into disappointment in a 7-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Kauffman Stadium. He retired the first 11 batters, carried a shutout into the fifth and still trailed just 2-1 after six.

Then came a three-run seventh, fueled by the bottom of the Arizona order, and, well, retro is one word for it. Hochevar (4-8) finished the inning before exiting with a 4.97 ERA after allowing five runs and eight hits.

"I don't know," Hochevar said. "I was cruising there until the seventh. Then a couple of hits down the line. Whatever it is, I need to figure it out, though.

"It's very frustrating. You go from a 2-1 ballgame to a 5-1 ballgame. That's absolutely frustrating. Whatever it is, I need to sit down and get to the bottom of it. Find a way to keep things rolling."

Manager Ned Yost termed it "puzzling" to characterize Hochevar's frequent pattern of dominant stretches followed by costly slips.

"At times," Yost said, "you do see him out there going into the third, fourth or fifth inning with one hit or no hits. Really painting. Then will make a series of mistakes — pitches that aren't where he wants it.

"His stuff in the first four innings was as good as you'd want."

The Diamondbacks said the key was refusing to bite on pitches outside of the strike zone.

"He was throwing a lot of marginal pitches," right fielder Justin Upton said, "and we were swinging early. That's kind of his game, getting you to swing at his pitches.

"But later on, we were able to get him in the zone and (make him throw) some pitches that we wanted to it."

Arizona starter Joe Saunders once dominated the Royals — 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA in five previous starts — while pitching for the Angels. Nothing changed with a change in uniforms.

"I think he threw 18 out of 29 first-pitch strikes," D-Backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He was around the zone. You don't like to see a game started with a home run, but he settled down and pitched a great game for us, gave us seven strong innings.

Saunders (4-7) rolled through seven innings with little trouble from anyone except Alex Gordon, who had three of the Royals' six hits and finished a single shy of the Royals' first cycle since George Brett in 1990.

Gordon hit a leadoff homer in the first, a leadoff double in the third (that led to nothing) and flied to left in the fifth before delivering an RBI triple in the seventh. All of that came against Saunders.

The chance for a cycle never came. The game ended with Gordon in the on-deck circle.

"It would have been nice to get up there again," Gordon said, "and, if I get a single, I get a single. But just to keep things going would have been even better. They just started tacking on runs late in the game, and we couldn't keep up with them."

Arizona put the game away on Chris Young's two-run homer in the eighth against Everett Teaford. Saunders gave up two runs and six hits before David Hernandez and Aaron Heilman each worked a scoreless inning.

The Royals lost for the fifth time in six games and, at 31-42, dropped to a season-worst 11 games under .500.

Gordon's homer staked Hochevar to a 1-0 lead, but the Diamondbacks pulled even on Wily Mo Pen~a's two-out homer in the fifth. It was Pen~a's first big-league game since July 12, 2008.

" (Hochevar) had 25 pitches through three innings," Gibson said, "and he was pretty efficient with his strikes. He kind of had us eating out of his hand a little bit. But Wily Mo broke the ice. That's what we brought him up here for."

Arizona broke the 1-1 tie after Hochevar opened the sixth inning by walking Ryan Roberts, who went to second when Kelly Johnson's attempted sacrifice turned into a bunt single.

Roberts tried for third when the throw by catcher Matt Treanor on the bunt got past first baseman Eric Hosmer. Initially, Roberts was safe, but his momentum carried him off the base with third baseman Mike Moustakas still applying the tag.

That out seemed a big break until Upton hammered Hochevar's next pitch over the head of center fielder Melky Cabrera for an RBI double and a 2-1 lead. Upton went to third on a two-out wild pitch, but Chris Young flied to left.

The Diamondbacks played add-on in a three-run seventh after Miguel Montero led off with a single. Juan Miranda's one-out double past first moved Montero to third. And both runners scored when Gerardo Parra yanked a triple past first.

Parra scored on Roberts' check-swing squibber, where Hochevar had to settle for the out at first, and it was 5-1.

"From my approach standpoint," Hochevar said, "I feel like nothing changes. I feel like I'm focusing on being down in the zone and staying aggressive. Maybe I just didn't execute. I don't know. I need to check it out and see."