After a miserable series against the Cardinals, the Royals bounced back unfazed.
Luke Hochevar continued to build on recent success, pitching deeper into the game than his previous two starts (which were the longest outings of the year for the team). He struck out eight, didn’t give up many hard hit balls and surrendered no runs for the second straight start for his first shutout since 2009.
Hochevar’s curveball was sharp, his two-seamer was hitting the corners and his four-seamer was sticking around 94 mph towards the end of the game as he threw 113 pitches in the shutout.
He looked completely different from the pitcher we saw in April and May. Poised. Tough. Hochevar reached a three ball count three times in the game, walking Carlos Pena in the first inning (the only walk allowed), getting to a full count on him again in the third inning, then reaching a full count against B.J. Upton leading off the fourth inning. He struck him out and didn’t look back the rest of the way.
I’ve been tough on Hochevar but he deserves a lot of credit for battling through early season struggles. He looked like the pitcher one would expect to see as a former first overall pick. The Royals say that he’s shifted to a simpler approach, going off of his fastball, curve and changeup rather than messing with cutters or sliders. If that’s the case, it’s working.
But it’s not possible to talk about a Hochevar start without including the phrase “for now”. It’s not the first time Hochevar has looked like he’s figured things out and in the past, he’s turned around and given away any positive momentum he’d built up. His next start could be in Minnesota, so we’ll see how he follows up on this start.
The offense was working tonight, too. The Royals scored five times in the bottom of the third and every Royal but Jarrod Dyson got a hit. Alex Gordon had three hits and Eric Hosmer had two, including a solo homer in the eighth inning. Alcides Escobar was 3-3 and now leads the team in hits with 78.
The Royals scored eight runs but didn’t walk once. They only struck out once though. Despite giving up eight runs, Rays starter Alex Cobb threw eight complete innings – the last time a pitcher had a complete game and gave up eight or more runs, Randy Johnson was still a Mariner (and was the pitcher who did it, too).
Bruce Chen goes tomorrow, hopefully to build on Hochevar’s start and his own 5.2 inning, one run performance in Houston.