The Tampa Bay Rays concluded the interleague portion of their schedule on a positive note.
The same can't be said for the Kansas City Royals .
The visiting Rays hope to build on an encouraging final day of interleague action in Monday night's series opener against a Royals team looking to bounce back after being swept.
After losing seven of nine to NL clubs, Tampa Bay (40-32) swept a day-night doubleheader from Philadelphia on Sunday. In the opener, Carlos Pena hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning to lift the Rays to a 3-2 victory, while in the nightcap Brooks Conrad had a pair of two-run doubles in a 7-3 win.
Unlike Tampa Bay, Kansas City (31-39) had been enjoying facing NL teams, winning seven of nine heading into its weekend set with St. Louis. The Royals were no match for the Cardinals, however, surrendering 30 runs and 41 hits while getting swept."It's real disappointing any time you drop three straight," Mike Moustakas said after Sunday's 11-8 loss.
The Royals dropped their final five meetings of last season's series with the Rays, although the injured Evan Longoria played a big role, hitting a homer while driving in seven runs.
Longoria's absence might not be so critical if Alex Cobb (3-3, 3.82 ERA) can pitch like he did his last time out.
Cobb allowed two hits and a walk while striking out a career-high 10 in a 3-0 win over Miami on June 17. He had posted a 6.27 ERA in losing his previous three starts."I felt great the last three outings," the right-hander said. "(This) turned out to be one of my better outings."
Cobb's best start of his 2011 rookie season came in Kansas City on July 24, when he gave up six hits and walked none over seven innings of a 5-0 win.
The Royals counter with Luke Hochevar (4-7, 5.65), who is also trying to build on one of his best outings.
In Thursday's 2-0 win over Houston, Hochevar carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and ended up allowing five hits in a season-best 7 2-3 to earn his first victory since May 12. After recording a 9.00 ERA in his first six starts, the right-hander has a 3.78 ERA in his last eight.
"It's starting to come together," Hochevar told the Royals' official website. "The main thing is making good pitches. That's where my focus has been. That's where I plan on staying. Just going out and executing quality pitches one at a time."
Hochevar went 1-0 with a 3.65 ERA in two starts against the Rays last season.
Pena is 6 for 12 with a double lifetime against Hochevar.
Moustakas is batting .382 with three homers and seven RBIs in his last eight games for the Royals, and went 3 for 5 with two homers Sunday while hitting third for the second time this season.
"It was fun getting back in the three-hole, I've haven't been there in a while, so it was good to finally get back in the spot," he said.
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|June 20, 2012||Matt Joyce||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|June 17, 2012||Matt Joyce||Day-to-Day||Flu|
|June 15, 2012||Jeremy Hellickson||15-Day DL||Right shoulder fatigue|
|June 14, 2012||Luke Scott||Day-to-Day||Mid-back spasms|
|June 12, 2012||Ben Zobrist||Day-to-Day||Bruised right hand|
|June 09, 2012||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Mid-back spasms|
|Kansas City Royals|
|June 18, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Lateral strain in lower left leg|
|June 17, 2012||Chris Getz||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left lateral leg strain|
|June 07, 2012||Felipe Paulino||15-Day DL||Strained right groin|
|May 26, 2012||Jarrod Dyson||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right hamstring injury|
|May 22, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Left ribcage contusion|
|May 22, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Left ribcage contusion|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Luke Hochevar was taken aback when he walked into the manager's office one day and manager Ned Yost and the Royals coaches started trying to convince him to make a change.
Simplify your approach, they said. Use your three core pitches.
It took a while for Hochevar to buy in.
Now the change is paying off.
The mercurial right-hander struck out eight in his second career shutout, and the Kansas City offense made sure to come through in an 8-0 rout of the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.
"I guess I have to come up with a better word than fantastic, tremendous and great. He was phenomenal," Yost said. "The results have been dramatically improved since he got back to his three core pitches. He's starting to show exactly what he can do."
His arsenal pared down to primarily a four-seam fastball, curveball and change-up, Hochevar (5-7) mowed through a weak-hitting Tampa Bay lineup for his first shutout since Sept. 18, 2009.
Now, the pitcher who was allowing nearly a run per inning earlier in the year has gone 16 2-3 scoreless innings, and is starting to resembled a former No. 1 overall draft pick.
"That was a great outing by Hoch," said Eric Hosmer , who tacked on a homer in the eighth inning to finish off the scoring. "He was in the zone, he was pounding pitches. He was great."
Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon both had three hits for the Royals, who were coming off an embarrassing sweep at the hands of St. Louis in which they were outscored 30-14 and burned through their bullpen - which made the start by Hochevar all the more impressive.
No Royals starter had even gone eight innings so far this season.
"If you don't get him early and permit him to settle in, he gets better," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He was all over us tonight"
Alex Cobb (3-4) also managed to throw a complete game, the first of his career, though it wasn't nearly as impressive: He allowed 13 hits while falling to 1-4 in his last five starts.
"In the first few innings, I just felt uncomfortable out there," he said. "Everything they were hitting was dropping. Unfortunately, they were falling everywhere."
The banged-up Rays came into the game riding plenty of momentum after a double-header sweep of Philadelphia, while the Royals limped in after their rough series against the Cardinals.
Somebody must have flipped the script.
It was Kansas City that came out swinging from the start, with Gordon's leadoff double setting up an RBI double by Mike Moustakas when the ball bounced off right fielder Ben Zobrist 's glove and over his head after he appeared to briefly lose it in the setting sun.
Cobb worked through a perfect second inning before coming unglued in the third.
It started with Escobar's bunt single and a base hit by Gordon, and included a wild pitch that plate umpire Todd Tichenor accidentally kicked away from catcher Jose Molina , allowing both of the runners to advance. Betancourt followed with a two-run single.
Billy Butler came to the plate with one out and added a single, and Jeff Francoeur followed with an RBI single in which Butler was thrown out trying to reach third. Hosmer contributed an RBI single, and Salvador Perez added another run-scoring single, though he was cut down to end the inning after making a wide turn around first.
The inning ended after five runs on seven singles in a span of only eight batters.
The Royals added another run on Betancourt's sacrifice fly in the fourth inning, and Hosmer went deep in the eighth, though both runs were moot the way Hochevar was dealing.
He got some help from double plays in the first and seventh innings, but otherwise took care of things himself. He worked a perfect second and sixth, and came back from consecutive base hits to start the fifth with three consecutive strikeouts.
It was the first time he had gone eight innings since last Sept. 3 against Cleveland.
This time, Hochevar managed to finish things off.
"I don't think you ever have it figured out, because hitters adjust, the game is always changing," he said. "I know what I'm focusing on now, though, and that's going to be consistent."
Notes: Hochevar had been 0-4 at home this season. ... Rays 1B Carlos Pena went 0 for 3, dropping his average to .197. DH Hideki Matsui went 0 for 4 and is hitting .159. ... Royals RHP Roman Colon was assigned outright to Triple-A Omaha. ... LHP Matt Moore starts Tuesday night for Tampa Bay. LHP Bruce Chen goes for Kansas City. ... The game time was 2 hours, 17 minutes.