TORONTO -- A year ago, Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar was reduced to being a cheerleader during his team's amazing postseason run, with Tommy John surgery in March having ended his season. So one can imagine the thrill inside Hochevar these days as he's right in the middle of another amazing October run.
Hochevar made his fifth straight scoreless relief appearance in the postseason on Tuesday, a crucial four-out spot in what at the time was still a tight game. Hochevar came in for starter Chris Young with a runner on and two out in the fifth inning and dangerous Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson at the plate, and Hochevar helped keep Toronto at bay en route to Kansas City's 14-2 win in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. The Royals hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, and they can clinch a second straight AL pennant on Wednesday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
Hochevar couldn't afford to walk Donaldson in what was then a 5-2 game, bringing the potential tying run to the plate with Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista up next.
"You can't give in and you can't be too careful," Hochevar said.
Hochevar busted a cutter inside on Donaldson, who fouled out to first baseman Eric Hosmer.
And Hochevar turned in a scoreless sixth, too, which set up manager Ned Yost to go to his three top relievers -- Ryan Madson, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis -- if they had been needed for the final three innings. Turns out that Yost didn't need Davis, as Kansas City pulled away in the late innings.
"Just a great job by Luke there," Young said. "Really nice."
"[Hochevar] didn't back down," Perez said. "He went after [Donaldson]."
Hochevar has had other notable outings in the postseason as well, most noticeably in Game 2. He entered that game with the bases loaded and one out and the Royals down, 3-0. Hochevar stopped Toronto there and allowed Kansas City to mount its late-inning rally in a 6-3 win.
It has been a special October for Hochevar this time around.
"You know, I've said it a thousand times," Hochevar said, "but I'd rather get to the playoffs like last year and not experience it personally than just never get to the playoffs at all.
"But yes, this time, it's just so much sweeter to be in the middle of it and to be a part of it. This is a great group of guys to play with. We all pull for each other.
"And obviously it's been great to be able to contribute and do my part this time."
Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.