HOUSTON — Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar endured some good-natured ribbing from his teammates after pitching one of his best games of the season.
They found it funny that he was so happy about getting his first major league hit.
Hochevar pitched into the eighth inning, two relievers completed the shutout, and Billy Butler hit a solo home run to lead the Royals to a 2-0 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
One player yelled at reporters from the shower area in the clubhouse to make sure to ask him about his second-inning single. Jeff Francoeur and Butler continued to joke about it when asked about his pitching.
“Who cares about his outing, he got his first hit,” they both said one after another while chuckling.
Hochevar entered the game with nine strikeouts in 13 at-bats since 2008.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “It hasn’t been pretty at all.”
Hochevar earned his first victory since May 12. He had four losses and two no-decisions since his previous win.
Kansas City manager Ned Yost raved about his work on the mound.
“That was a tremendous ball game by Luke Hochevar,” Yost said. “He’s getting back to who he is. His three core pitches, four-seam fastball, curveball, changeup are very effective together in combination.”
Hochevar (4-7) pitched no-hit ball into the fifth inning and allowed five hits and struck out six in a season-high 7 2-3 innings.
“I wish we could have got him through it,” Yost said of the eighth inning. “But I can’t live with myself if he gives up the lead in the eighth inning with our pen.”
Hochevar said he’s made some adjustments since the beginning of the season that are starting to come together for him.
“I think it helps more changing speeds, and I’m not so one-dimensional,” he said. “Changing speeds more has helped a lot.”
Aaron Crow and closer Jonathan Broxton combined to allow no hits in the last 1 1-3 innings to complete Kansas City’s seventh shutout this season. Broxton earned his 17th save.
Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez (6-5) yielded six hits and two runs in seven innings.
Butler put Kansas City up 1-0 with his two-out homer to the Crawford Boxes in left field in the first inning.
Yuniesky Betancourt singled to start the third, and scored on Alcides Escobar’s two-out single that rolled between Jed Lowrie and Jose Altuve and into the outfield to make it 2-0.
Rodriguez settled down after the first three innings and allowed just one hit in the next four innings. He was helped by his defense in the sixth when Justin Maxwell made a leaping catch at the wall in left field to rob Escobar of a hit.
“We need to find that rhythm right away,” Houston manager Brad Mills said of Rodriguez. “He couldn’t get in that rhythm (early on). When he got it, you saw how good he was.”
Rodriguez was replaced by Brandon Lyon, who allowed two hits in 1 1-3 innings.
Lowrie walked with two outs in the eighth inning before a single by Carlos Lee chased Hochevar. Lowrie reached third on the hit, which bounced off the wall in left field, and Lee advanced to second on an error by Alex Gordon.
Crow replaced Hochevar and struck out Justin Maxwell to end the inning.
Hochevar didn’t allow a hit until Chris Johnson’s one-out single in the fifth inning, which broke an 0-for-13 skid by the third baseman. Hochevar walked Lee and plunked Brian Bogusevic in the second before walking Rodriguez in the third.
“The breaking ball that Hochevar had, it was pretty good,” Mills said. “We had trouble making adjustments, as you obviously saw.”
Jason Castro singled after Johnson’s single before Rodriguez was out when Mike Moustakas dived to catch his pop bunt. Hochevar retired Jordan Schafer to end Houston’s threat.
Lowrie drew a walk with one out in the sixth, and Lee doubled down the right field line, but Hochevar escaped trouble again when he struck out Maxwell and Bogusevic.
NOTES: Houston starter Bud Norris, on the DL with a sprained knee, will throw a light side session on Wednesday. If that goes well he will start for Triple-A Oklahoma on Saturday. … Royals starter Felipe Paulino, on the DL with a right groin strain, will start a rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Wednesday. … Kansas City left-hander Bruce Chen, who turned 35 on Tuesday, will start Wednesday’s finale against Jordan Lyles.
– Associated Press –