First-inning woes doom Hochevar, Royals

First-inning woes doom Hochevar, Royals

First-inning woes doom Hochevar, Royals
DETROIT -- It was one of those crazy games. Royals starter Luke Hochevar revisited the first-inning blues. Gold Glove outfielder Alex Gordon lost a ball in the twilight. Umpire Tim McClelland had a strange moment in his 4,000th game.

When the mayhem was finished, 30,159 fans had seen Detroit storm past the Royals, 9-3, on Tuesday night at Comerica Park. Old stuff for the Tigers, who have won 14 of their last 19 games against Kansas City.

Hochevar must have thought he was in a time warp during the first inning and had been transported back to April's home opener on that unlucky day of Friday the 13th. The Indians got to Hochevar for seven runs in that frightful first inning, prelude to an 8-3 loss.

On this occasion, the Tigers tripped the light fantastic across the plate five times, utilizing six hits and two errors as all nine batters trooped to the plate in the fateful first.

"I'd say more than anything I just didn't execute quality pitches, and that's what happens when you don't execute," Hochevar said. "Even when I did execute, they squared 'em up, and so I was just poor all around."

Among other things, Miguel Cabrera, who came into the game hitting .517 against Hochevar, pounded a run-scoring double. There were also five singles in the mix before the Royals got an out. Normally dependable first baseman Eric Hosmer fielded Prince Fielder's grounder and threw the ball high and wide of catcher Humberto Quintero on a two-run play. Center fielder Jarrod Dyson botched a ground-ball single to permit a runner to score.

Oh, it was quite a mess and, despite the two errors, all of the runs were counted as earned. In the Tigers' three-run third, Hochevar gave up a couple of walks and a two-run double to Austin Jackson.

This was beginning to look like the game that got away from the Royals early immediately following a rainout at Minnesota. The first game in this Detroit series was washed out on Monday night.

"If this is the way we play after rainouts, we don't need any more rain, that's for sure," manager Ned Yost said. "That's two times in a row -- two stinkers after rainouts. We have to hope we'll have a little fairer weather."

You knew things weren't going right when, in the fourth inning, Gordon loped in to catch Andy Dirks' routine pop fly, but he couldn't see it and the ball dropped for a double. Dirks managed to tweak his left hamstring as he dove into the bag but, anyway, the play resulted in the Tigers' ninth run as Jhonny Peralta singled in a pinch-runner.

"Sometimes you get a twilight sky right before it gets dark," Gordon said. "A couple of seconds after it went off the bat, I lost it and just kept running in and kept trying to find it, and I couldn't find it. I went into panic mode and was asking for help, but I couldn't find it and it dropped."

Thus Hochevar's outing ended with nine earned runs on 12 hits and three walks. On the plus side, four relievers combined for four scoreless innings.

Tigers starter Rick Porcello kept the Royals at bay for eight innings. There were some offensive pluses, however. Gordon nailed an RBI double, Dyson had two hits, including a triple, and scored twice and Jeff Francoeur had three hits.

It was Francoeur's last hit, a ninth-inning double, that caused a bit of a fuss for McClelland in his 4,000th game as an MLB umpire. Frenchy's drive hit the top of the left-field wall, bounced high and was snagged by center fielder Jackson as he reached his glove over the fence.

McClelland signaled an out, confusing the issue. Later he explained that in his haste to make everyone aware that the ball was not a home run, he mistakenly threw up his fist instead of spreading his hands to indicate the ball was still in play.

Francoeur, steaming around second base, saw the out signal and was thoroughly confused.

"I didn't think a ball could hit a wall and you'd be out, but the way things are going, who knows?" Francoeur said.

The perplexed Francoeur stopped and stood beyond second base and was tagged by the Tigers' Ramon Santiago. That made Tigers manager Jim Leyland argue strenuously that Francoeur was tagged out while the ball was in play.

"For his 4,000th game, I just wanted to get into the act," Leyland deadpanned afterward.

McClelland solved the situation by simply calling the play a double for Francoeur.

"We have directives that if a player steps off the base because of an umpire's incorrect call, then we do whatever we can do to offset that," McClelland explained.

A perfect way to top off a crazy game.

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