Luke Hochevar, Royals hand Indians costly setback

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This is exactly what the Kansas City Royals were looking for when they selected Luke Hochevar with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft.

Hochevar continued his strong second half of the season with eight innings of three-hit ball and the Royals handed the Cleveland Indians a costly loss, 5-1 on Saturday night.

Hochevar (10-10) allowed an unearned run, struck out eight and walked one while improving to 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break.

"His sinker was as good as I've ever seen it," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He had tremendous movement to it and used all his pitches effectively tonight. That was a nice job by him."

The Indians lost ground in the AL Central, falling to 6 1-2 games back of first-place Detroit. The Tigers rallied for a dramatic 9-8 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Hochevar threw a career-high 117 pitches, shaking off an errant pickoff attempt in the first inning that led to Cleveland's only run.

"The key to it is having a simple approach and a clear approach," Hochevar said. "You just kind of get out of your own way and let everything you've learned and experienced take over."

Since the break, Hochevar has made a concentrated effort to keep batters honest by working inside. That approach has paid off with a string of positive outings.

"He was as good as we've seen him the last two years," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "He had every one of his pitches working and he dominated our lineup. There's not much we could do against him."

Nothing rattled the right-hander, not even a bizarre play in the fifth when Jerad Head's liner went through the webbing of first baseman Eric Hosmer's glove on what was scored an error.

"That's Rawlings' fault," Hosmer said with a laugh. "I had to get the glove all tightened up. That's pretty weird."

The start of the game was delayed 20 minutes by rain, and showers caused another 16-minute break in the second inning. But it was smooth sailing from there, at least for the Royals.

Jeff Francoeur hit a two-run double in the first inning to give Kansas City a 2-1 lead. It was Francoeur's 44th double of the season, tying the club record for an outfielder set by Jermaine Dye in 1999.

Alex Gordon added a run-scoring fielder's choice in the second, Billy Butler doubled in a run in the fifth and Johnny Giavotella capped the scoring with his second homer in the sixth.

David Huff (2-3) pitched six innings for Cleveland and was charged with four earned runs and six hits.

Hochevar's only mistake came in the first, when his wayward throw on a pickoff attempt allowed Ezequiel Carrera to move from first to third. Carrera then scored on Carlos Santana's sacrifice fly.

"(Hochevar) was working fast and keeping us on our toes out there," Hosmer said. "It seemed like we were on offense most of the game. It was his night and he threw a great game."

Game notes
Chris Getz started at shortstop for Kansas City after Alcides Escobar sprained his left ankle on Friday. Yost said he doesn't anticipate Escobar being sidelined for long. To bolster their infield depth, the Royals recalled Yamaico Navarro from Triple-A Omaha. ... The Indians kept SS Asdrubal Cabrera (left knee contusion) out of the lineup, but Acta expects him back for the final game of the weekend series. "I'm very confident he'll be able to play (Sunday)," Acta said. ... Indians OF Grady Sizemore, battling back from a right knee injury, was scheduled to play nine innings for Triple-A Columbus on Saturday. Acta hasn't ruled out the possibility that Sizemore could rejoin the Indians sometime next week.