While the Kansas City Royals’ offense was at its best, the momentum changed in the first inning when Luke Hochevar worked out of a big-time mess.
After allowing a run and facing a bases-loaded situation, Hochevar regrouped in the first and helped lead the Royals to a 10-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night. Melky Cabrera had three hits and drove in three runs, and Billy Butler homered for the first time in six weeks to pace the offense.
“They load the bases, and we got out of it,” Butler said. “In other games, we would not have got out of there with limited damage. That’s a good job by Hoch minimizing the damage, and we came in and put some runs up and used that momentum shift for the rest of the game.”
Hochevar (6-8) allowed just one run in the first in what could have been a ruinous inning. He gave up a run on back-to-back doubles by Johnny Damon and Ben Zobrist to open the game and walked Casey Kotchman and Evan Longoria to load the bases with no outs. That prompted a visit to the mound from pitching coach Bob McClure.
Whatever was said appeared to work as Hochevar struck out Matt Joyce. B.J. Upton flied out to right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who threw out Zobrist at the plate for an inning-ending double play. Hochevar retired 11 straight batters after Zobrist’s double to pick up his first victory since June 26.
“I found myself in a jam in the first,” Hochevar said. “You’ve got to find a way to get it done and make quality pitches. I walked two guys in that inning, but then I was just bearing down and making pitches. I pop Upton up, and Frenchy makes the catch and an outstanding throw. We’ve been doing that all season.”
That was the Royals’ 19th outfield assist on a runner out at the plate.
“I kind of hit a groove,” Hochevar said after the first. “I felt like I was commanding the ball on both sides of the plate. In the sixth, I fell behind two guys and made two mistakes. That’s what happens when you make mistakes when you’re behind in the count.”
Francoeur went 3-for-5 with an RBI, and Eric Hosmer drove in a pair of runs with two hits.