Royals rally to pick up Hochevar

Royals rally to pick up Hochevar

KANSAS CITY -- Now this was a lot better, a real bang-up, come-from-behind victory by the Royals on the Fourth of July.

The Royals snapped a four-game skid by defeating the Chicago White Sox, 6-4, on Saturday in front of a holiday crowd of 18,182 at Kauffman Stadium. It was just their fifth win in the last 17 games.

This was something different for Kansas City, which has been receiving good starting pitching but not much else lately.

"We swung the bats well, we played great defense and the bullpen did their job well," said Luke Hochevar, notably not mentioning the starting pitcher on Saturday.

That was Hochevar, who wasn't sparkling by any means but was good enough to claim his fourth victory. He went six innings and gave up all four White Sox runs.

But he was propped up splendidly by three relievers, Juan Cruz, John Bale and Joakim Soria, who each spun a perfect inning.

"Three zeroes -- man, that's nice to see," said Royals manager Trey Hillman.

Soria notched his 11th save and he seems to be back in his old groove. He's had 1-2-3 innings in each of his past three outings, indicating his worrisome shoulder problems are well in the past.

"He's been pretty good over the years. He throws a lot of strikes. That's the main thing for a closer. There's no panic," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "But I think the reason they have a bunch of success is because Soria is there. When Soria is coming in, it's a tough inning to get some runs, and he always does a good job."

A bunch of success is something the Royals have not had recently, however. They had been held to one run or none in losing four straight games. And since a four-game winning spurt ended on June 17, they'd averaged just 2.9 runs a game in a rough 4-16 span.

But Alberto Callaspo helped lift that gloom on Saturday.

Callaspo knocked in three runs, the last two on a looping single in the sixth inning that put the White Sox behind to stay, 5-4. Mark Teahen had singled in a run before pinch-hitter Brayan Pena, with two runners on base, grounded into the second out. Callaspo came up against reliever Matt Thornton and, on a 3-2 pitch, dropped a single into short right field.

Pena thanked Callaspo for picking him up.

"I said that I owe him dinner, 'Where he wanna go?'" Pena said. "And he was happy and he smiled. That's what a great team does."

Pena recouped by giving the Royals a cushion in the eighth, as he lofted a solo home run into the right-field bullpen against reliever Octavio Dotel.

Callaspo also belted an RBI triple. That came just after Mike Jacobs broke up Sox starter Gavin Floyd's no-hit pitching by leading off the fifth with a single. Then Callaspo scored on Mitch Maier's sacrifice fly.

Meanwhile, the White Sox went long ball against Hochevar. Jermaine Dye followed Alexei Ramirez's third-inning double with his 19th home run to left field. Gordon Beckham cracked a solo shot to center field in the sixth for a 4-2 lead. Hochevar was pulled after six innings.

"The home run to Jermaine -- that was a stupid pitch, a changeup right down the middle. A terrible pitch," Hochevar said. "And then the one to Beckham, I thought I made a good pitch, but it was up a little and he's got quick hands."

Hochevar credited good outfield throws by Maier and Jose Guillen with helping hold down the White Sox. Guillen made a strong peg to third base in the second inning -- too late there, but it enabled Teahen to snap off a throw that caught Beckham trying for second. Maier threw out Paul Konerko trying for a double in the third inning.

In the highlight reel department: Maier ended the third inning with a spectacular baserunning cartwheel as he rammed into Beckham while the third baseman was about to field Willie Bloomquist's grounder. After his flashy flip, Maier was immediately called out for interference.

"It was a slow roller, he was coming in hard so I veered to go around him and he put on the brakes. By then it was too late to go around him," Maier said.

Hillman thought that Beckham, still learning the third-base position, hesitated as he approached the ball and confused Maier.

Maier hit the dirt on that play but, in the end, the Royals landed on their feet.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.