Hochevar notches first big league win

Hochevar notches first big league win

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals were looking for a little offensive carryover from their dramatic come-form-behind 8-4 victory over the Blue Jays on Friday night.

Didn't get it. Didn't need it. Royals 2, Blue Jays 1.

The Royals came into the game as one of the worst hitting teams in the Major Leagues, and did little to change that. They managed only five hits on the night, but one of them was a biggie. Jose Guillen's second homer of the season broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning and turned out to be the game-winner.

Guillen's blast, along with some clutch relief pitching, gave rookie right-hander Luke Hochevar his first Major League win. Hochevar pitched six innings, giving up six hits and a single run. He struck out three and walked two as he dodged the "one bad inning" problem that plagued him in his first start.

His sinker was the key.

Before the game, Royals manager Trey Hillman had encouraged Hochevar to "stick with what brung him," meaning his sinker.

Hochevar followed his manager's advice.

"When I get in those tough situations, I go to my strengths, Hochevar said. "I felt like tonight I did a good job of that."

Hochevar said this was his first big league outing in which he didn't feel an unbelievable amount of adrenalin. That helped him keep the ball down, down to the tune of 11 ground-ball outs and three strikeouts in his 18 recorded outs.

"I like to pitch on the verge of a fight, but when I get over-zealous, I come out of my delivery and try to throw it 100 miles per hour," Hochevar said. "In all reality, I just need to keep the ball down and throw it over the plate."

John Buck was behind the plate for Hochevar's initial victory.

"He got ground balls," Buck said. "He got double plays when he needed it."

Buck also said that when a pitcher has a sinker that he can use aggressively, he can get strikeouts and groundouts when he needs them. He continued, saying that Hochevar was even more effective the second and third time through the lineup. He said it seemed like when Hochevar started to get more tired, he got even more sink on his fastball.

"When he was walking guys, it wasn't because the ball was up, it was because ... the bottom was just falling out," Buck said. "It looks like it stays on the plate for so long and then just dives off. It's a tough pitch all around."

Hillman complimented his young hurler on his first win. "He was outstanding. You compare what he did today in the situations he had to do them in, combined with the lack of starting experience at the Major League level, with this many people in the ballpark and excitement, and coming off the heels of one win after seven losses, that's very impressive."

Joakim Soria pitched a scoreless ninth and earned his sixth save.

"I've got a lot of confidence in myself, and I just try to do my best every time," Soria said.

His best has been very good so far, as he kept his perfect 0.00 ERA intact and has only given up three hits in 10 innings without yielding a walk.

While the game was mostly about pitching, defense also had a lot to do with the win.

"We played some unbelievable defense," Hochevar said. Tony Pena's in-the-hole, from-the-knees, run-saving putout of Adam Lind in the eighth topped the list.

"You're never sure how he's gonna do it or what he's gonna do, but he's going to make some spectacular plays," Hillman said.

Pena said the play was no big deal. "I used to see my Dad do it," a reference to his father Tony, the catcher who used to gun down would-be basestealers with his own from-the-knees throws.

"I had some flashbacks there," the younger Pena said.

Hillman called it "just a wonderful play."

Pena was especially pleased to make that play because his error on a double-play ball in the fifth inning allowed the Blue Jays' only run. Pena said that in spite of runners on every base, he never thought about trying to do anything other than throw to first.

"I went with my instinct," he said.

Buck offered additional insight. "I was joking with [pitching coach Bob McClure]. I was screaming 'three,' and Mac was laughing,'I was screaming two.' [Alex] Gordon was like 'I was screaming one.'"

"Obviously, Tony had it under control," Buck added.

Max Utsler is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.