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Luke Hochevar Shocks Tampa Bay Rays in 1-0 Pitcher’s Duel


Looking at the schedule and seeing that David Price was tonight’s scheduled starter is not a  fun feeling.

A night after the Royals only scored one run doesn’t help matters. Then, somehow, it worked out anyway.

Despite only scoring once for the second night in a row, the Royals pulled out a satisfying 1-0 win in ten innings, led by Luke Hochevar. On a night where two number one overall picks matched up with one another, Hochevar went pitch for pitch with Price. He looked fast. He looked commanding. If you were to know nothing of his career path to this point but knew he’d been the first player taken in 2006, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to see such a crisp outing.

Hochevar struck out ten – his highest strikeout total since June 5, 2010 – and walked just three while allowing one hit over eight innings. His ERA has fallen below 5.00 to 4.95. He’s had another rough season, but like last year, his second half has been better. I don’t think there’s ever going to be a time where Royals fans feel comfortable with him sustaining an extended stretch of dominance, but he’s shown that he can bring it out from time to time. In his previous start against Tampa, he threw his second career complete game shutout.

There was still some drama. After all, the Royals were up against Price, a frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award this year, and he was fantastic. Every pitch was sharp and he struck out eight batters of his own in holding the Royals scoreless through eight innings. The Royals hit him somewhat hard early in the game but line drives went right to fielders. He only gave up three hits and walked none.

Once he left the game, the Royals were shut down by Fernando Rodney but got to Joel Peralta. Jeff Francoeur got an infield single to short and went to second on a throwing error, then a bloop single by Eric Hosmer brought him home. Kelvin Herrera threw a scoreless ninth inning prior to the Royals scoring frame, earning his first career win (though not without a bit of tension, as he and Hosmer miscommunicated on a grounder to second and Luke Scott ended up getting an infield single out of it). Greg Holland  worked a perfect tenth for the save.

The biggest downside to the night was the struggling Mike Moustakas. Granted, David Price is no easy matchup, but he toyed with Moustakas, striking him out three times. Moose got a fourth strikeout in the tenth against Peralta. He’s been off most of the second half after a strong start to the year. It hasn’t affected his defense, which is good, but there was hope he’d be past his streaky reputation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have another hot stretch to end the year, not unlike last season, but it has dampened his 2012.

Eric Hosmer, on the other hand, might be waking up a bit. Prior to yesterday’s game, he was noted to be hitting more line drives in batting practice and during the game, his swings were quieter and his front foot didn’t get away from him. He’s had bad plate discipline for much of the year, chasing the down and away pitch and teams are feeding it to him with regularity. Combining that with a longer swing has left him plateauing as he tries to progress.

Tonight, it looked a lot better, though, and he’s also been drawing walks. His average is up to .237 and his on base percentage has made it above .300 to .307 which is a step up, at least. He could still get into a groove over the last weeks of the season and, while it’s still disappointing, hopefully, he can get back into form and finish strong.

Tomorrow afternoon, Luis Mendoza takes on James Shields at noon before an off day on Thursday.