Kansas City, Mo. Luke Hochevar turned around in plenty of time to see the fly ball in the eighth inning fall into the glove of center fielder Jarrod Dyson, and then did a little leg-kicking shimmy off the mound.
That’s about as much excitement as you’ll see out of the Royals reliever.
Hochevar came on to retire Mariners with runners on second and third in a tie game, and then got credit for the win Tuesday night when Salvador Perez drove in Mike Moustakas in the bottom half of the inning to boost Kansas City to a 4-3 victory over Seattle.
“I’m not a big emotional guy,” Hochevar said, “but sometimes the situation calls for it.”
The situation couldn’t have been a whole lot more apropos.
The Royals had already squandered a three-run lead, but instead of the Mariners pulling ahead in the eighth inning, the table was set for another dramatic victory.
Billy Butler had just grounded into a double play against Seattle reliever Yoervis Medina (4-4) when Moustakas legged out a double to center in the eighth. Perez followed with a single to left, and Moustakas had just enough time for a headfirst slide ahead of Endy Chavez’s throw to home.
“All the credit goes to Hoch,” Moustakas said. “He came in a huge situation for us and did exactly what we needed to do. That guy saved the game for us.”
Actually, it was Greg Holland who saved the game. The All-Star closer tossed a perfect ninth for his 31st straight save and 38th on the year.
Perez also homered and finished with three hits, and Alex Gordon added a homer for the Royals, who have won three straight and eight of their last 10 to climb back into playoff contention.
The Royals (72-66), who began the day 4½ games back in the AL wild-card race, have already matched their win total from last season. They haven’t had more than 72 wins since the 2008 season.
“That’s all nice, but we have a long way to go,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “There’s no sitting back and patting your back at 72 wins right now. We want to continue pushing, continue playing with confidence the way we are right now, keep winning a bunch more games.”
Kyle Seager hit a two-run shot for the Mariners, who have lost three straight.
“Those are the type of situations with these young kids that they’ve got to get comfortable being in,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We got some great young competitors here, but they struggle in those types of situations to take advantage of them.”
The Royals took the lead on the first pitch of the game, which Gordon sent sailing over the outfield wall for the 12th leadoff homer of his career. The shot broke a tie with David DeJesus and Willie Wilson for the most leadoff home runs in franchise history.
Perez made it 2-0 with his solo shot in the fourth inning, and the Royals manufactured another run in the fifth when Billy Butler sent an RBI grounder through the left side of the infield.
That was all Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez allowed in 6 1-3 innings. After getting recalled from Triple-A Tacoma, Ramirez scattered seven hits and three walks while striking out three.
“I made a couple of pitches in the game, like the homer to Perez,” he said. “That happens.”
Bruce Chen was just as stingy for the Royals early in the game.
The soft-tossing left-hander allowed four weak singles through the first five innings before Franklin Gutierrez ripped a crisp base hit to lead off the sixth. Seager followed with his home run to right field, which cleared the visiting bullpen and landed deep in the seats.
Seattle tied the game up in the seventh inning. Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera gave up a pair of singles, and Brad Miller’s groundout off relief pitcher Tim Collins knotted the game 3-all.
The Mariners threatened again when they put runners on second and third with one out against Collins in the eighth inning. Hochevar struck out Mike Zunino and got Chavez on a fly ball to center to end the inning, and walked off the field to a standing ovation.
“We got some hits tonight,” Seager said. “It’s just kind of the same thing. They were able to make some good pitches and get out of a couple of jams.”
Notes: The Mariners added LHP James Paxton, RHP Chance Ruffin, RHP Hector Noesi and INF Carlos Triunfel from Triple-A Tacoma before the game. They also added Triple-A hitting coach Howard Johnson to the staff. ... The Royals added RHPs Wade Davis and Louis Coleman from Class-A Wilmington, and LHP Donnie Joseph and INFs Johnny Giavotella, Pedro Ciriaco and Carlos Pena from Triple-A Omaha before the game. ... RHP Taijuan Walker starts for the Mariners on Wednesday. RHP Ervin Santana goes for KC.