Chicago Luke Hochevar shook off miserable performances in his two previous starts to give the Kansas City Royals the kind of pitching they need and expect from him.
Hochevar allowed three hits in seven innings and combined with two relievers for a 5-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Saturday night.
“I just tried to stay within my approach and continue to battle like crazy and make good pitches. Just try to go out and execute quality pitches and stay the course,” said Hochevar.
In his previous starts against the Tigers and Yankees, he’d given up a total of 19 hits and 16 runs in 6 1-3 innings, both losses.
“Obviously my last two weren’t what I wanted, by any means, but sometimes things are tough and you have to keep fighting like crazy,” Hochevar said. “Regardless of my situation, I’ve got one job to do, and that’s get outs.”
Hochevar (3-3) cruised. The Royals scored three in the first off Chris Sale and then the White Sox mustered only one real scoring threat against him all night. That came in the second on a walk and single by Alex Rios before Alexei Ramirez hit into a double play.
Hochevar walked one and struck out five. Greg Holland pitched the eighth and Aaron Crow walked two in the ninth before completing the shutout.
“‘‘It’s huge. I think it’s bigger for our bullpen than anything else because it lets them have a break,” Royals’ DH Billy Butler said of Hochevar’s performance.
“We need guys to go deep into games. Hopefully the run support made him relax a little bit. I don’t want to dampen anything he did today, but we were happy to get him some runs and hopefully make him relax.”
Sale (3-2), returning to the rotation after a one-appearance stint in the bullpen with a sore elbow, made his first start since May 1 and lasted five innings. The Royals sent nine batters to the plate in the first, with Sale’s early wildness a major factor, and an error on second baseman Gordon Beckham also hurting the White Sox.
“The first inning was terrible as far as command,” said Sale. “I didn’t have any of my off-speed stuff working, kind of just throwing the ball all over the place.”
Sale said a 56-minute rain delay was no big deal and that he felt fine despite the length of time between starts. He’d convinced general manager Kenny Williams that he was OK and wanted to go back in the rotation and not be a reliever as he was in his first two seasons.
“My arm felt great, my body felt good, my mind was right,” Sale said. “I just didn’t put it all together.”
Sale’s first seven pitches were balls and he walked the first two batters before giving up a single to Alex Gordon that loaded the bases. Butler then drove a ball into the right-field corner, but when base runner Johnny Giavotella didn’t get a good break off second, just one run scored and the bases remained full.
When Jeff Francoeur grounded to Beckham on a perfect double-play ball, Beckham touched second and threw wildly past first for an error and two runs scored for the Royals. An infield single by Eric Hosmer and bloop single by Irvin Falu re-loaded the bases before Sale escaped after throwing 42 pitches in the opening inning.
“I don’t know that we got to him, but his command was off and we did a good job of getting his pitch count up, scoring three in the first,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
“Then he settled in, and he did a pretty darn good job of getting through five innings after that first inning. It was pretty impressive. The two tack-on runs in the eighth were huge.”
After his shaky start, Sale retired nine straight at one point. He gave up seven hits and the three runs during his 103-pitch outing with two walks and three strikeouts.
Alcides Escobar delivered a two-out RBI double in the eighth for Kansas City and scored on a single by Humberto Quintero.
Notes: The teams reversed scores from Friday night’s opener when the White Sox won 5-0. ... Royals reinstated right-handed reliever Greg Holland (rib cage) from the 15-day disabled list and optioned right-hander Nate Adcock to Triple-A Omaha. K.C. also signed veteran left-hander Doug Davis to a minor-league deal. ... Chicago 3B Brent Morel, bothered by disc problem in his back, returned to the lineup after missing two games.