KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Luke Hochevar took some time to reflect during the All-Star break. He's pitched like an All-Star since then.
Hochevar pitched neatly into the eighth inning, Billy Butler homered and drove in four runs and the Kansas City Royals beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-2 on Wednesday night.Hochevar (8-8), the first player picked in the 2006 draft, is 4-0 in his past seven starts and has matched the longest winning streak of his career. He also set a personal high for wins in a season, having gone 7-13 in 2009."It gave me time to sit down and look at the things I wanted to do," Hochevar said of his time off. "I just looked down the road, what I wanted things to look like in a month and the things I needed to do to get there. Just really keeping the game simple and let things come to me instead of just trying so hard, just play the game instead of working at it."I'm just going out and trying to execute quality pitches and try to keep it as simple as possible and just make good pitches really, changing speeds, keeping guys guessing, not being predictable," he said. "You can do those things, but if you're not executing, they're good enough hitters to square the ball up. That's really where my focus has been, making quality pitches."Hochevar allowed one earned run and four hits in 7 1/3 innings. He struck out seven, walked one and retired 16 straight batters during one stretch.Hochevar is 3-0 with a 2.70 earned-run average in his past four starts."Hoch has been on a roll since the All-Star break," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He was terrific. He pitched up, pitched down, pitched in, pitched out. He's refined his approach and simplified it."Jeremy Guthrie (5-15) yielded six runs on eight hits in seven innings. He leads the majors in losses.Hochevar gave up a run in the first when Adam Jones doubled with two outs and scored on Vladimir Guerrero's single but did not allow another hit until the eighth."We didn't mount much offense," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "That was the story of the game. Hochevar really picked it up from the third inning on. You'd like to see us mount a little more offense. That seems to happen when Jeremy pitches."Butler had a sacrifice fly in the first inning and hit a three-run homer in the seventh. His 13th homer came on a 3-0 pitch after Manny Pina doubled for his first big league hit and Alex Gordon singled."It was down the middle, thigh high," Butler said. "If it's not in that spot where I'm looking, I'm not swinging. What you do on a 3-0 pitch is you're looking to do damage. If not, you take it."Alcides Escobar's triple in the second scored Yamaico Navarro and Chris Getz, putting the Royals up 3-1. Escobar and Gordon each contributed three hits.The Orioles got unearned run in the third when Hochevar committed a throwing error on a pickoff attempt, allowing Robert Andino to advance to third. He scored on J.J. Hardy's sacrifice fly.After Matt Wieters singled and Pie doubled in the eighth, Greg Holland replaced Hochevar. Holland hit Andino to load the bases with one out but struck out Hardy and retired Nick Markakis on a ground out to end the inning.Holland picked up his first career save in his second opportunity.
Yost said struggling rookie third baseman Mike Moustakas would not be in the lineup Wednesday or Thursday as he worked with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer on his stroke. Moustakas is hitting .194 with one home run in 41 games. "It's mechanical more than anything else," Yost said. "But he's pressing a little bit at the plate, trying to get results, which makes it worse." Pina, who was called up Sunday, made his big league debut and went 2-for-4. ... The Orioles optioned veteran left-hander Mark Hendrickson, who was 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in seven relief appearances, to Triple-A Norfolk. The move opened up a roster spot for left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes, who joined the club after being claimed off waivers Monday from the Toronto Blue Jays. The Orioles agreed to terms with right-hander Willie Eyre pending a physical. Eyre would be assigned to Norfolk. Eyre, 33, is 5-6 with a 5.14 ERA in 92 big league games. ... Rookie left-hander Zach Britton, who starts Thursday for the Orioles, has struggled mightily in past two starts, losses to the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. In those two starts, he has allowed 13 runs on 13 hits and three walks in one inning. He got just two outs July 8 at Boston and retired only one Yankee on Saturday. Britton has recorded one win in his past 13 starts. ... Left-hander Jeff Francis starts the series finale for the Royals. Francis is coming off his best start of the season, holding the Cleveland Indians to four hits in eight scoreless innings Friday.