It was a good day to be a new Royal on Thursday, if nothing else.
The old guard, however, was up to their usual tricks.
Cabrera went 3-4, walked and stole a base while Francoeur scored the first run of the season for Kansas City – a 377 foot line drive homer to left. He showed off his arm in the eighth inning, gunning down Jeff Mathis at the plate to end the inning.
The rookies were solid. I’m not sure if it was a plan by Ned Yost to get them into the first game of the year or not, but they showed they were ready (at least in this game.
Crow came on to relieve Hochevar in the sixth and simple struck out three of the four batters he faced. Adcock retired his first two batters in the eighth before a Mathis double (that should have been a single, but we’re lollygaggers) and Peter Bourjos single led to the Francoeur assist at the plate.
For those veterans of the team, things didn’t go quite as well. Sure, Mike Aviles homered and Billy Butler walked twice, but otherwise, the Royals looked pretty sad. They were without a hit until Cabrera’s one out single in the fourth inning and waited until the seventh until Francoeur’s homer to get on the board.
Alex Gordon had a particularly bad day, striking out three times, twice to end and inning, and left the tying runs on base to end the game. In his final at bat, he hit a drive down the left field line that sliced foul, but had the distance for what would have been an amazing walk off homer. Instead it turned way foul and led to a strikeout.
Luke Hochevar pitched fairly well, but as we’re used to, when he let his focus drift, it hurt him. On paper, it looks pretty rough – 5.2 innings with four runs allowed (three earned) – but it was mostly four bad pitched and one bad play that did him in. Hunter destroyed a pitch, launching it over the batter’s eye in dead center that was estimated at 436 feet. Perhaps it rattled Hochevar, because the next two batters – Vernon Wells and Erick Aybar – ripped doubles down the line to score a second run. He got too much of a pitch against Jeff Mathis in the sixth and it cost him, then a butchered play on a bunt led to a runner on third on a ball hit about 25 feet.
Aside from that (all that), Hochevar held his own against Jered Weaver. He threw 73 of his 102 pitches for strikes and induced 11 ground ball outs to one fly out. He walked nobody and worked quickly. That’s the kind of performance you want out of him, but it’s always about focus with him.
One more silver lining in an otherwise cold and dreary losing day: the Royals worked six walks today.
Hey, it’s a start.