Hochevar takes step back in loss to Yanks

Hochevar takes step back in loss to Yanks

Hochevar takes step back in loss to Yanks
KANSAS CITY -- There's a mystery about Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar but no mystery at all about the Yankees' ability to pound home runs.

The Hochevar mystery deepened on Sunday with Robinson Cano's grand slam and Nick Swisher's solo blast, which carried the New York club and pitcher Phil Hughes to a 10-4 victory and a split of a four-game series in Kansas City.

Alex Rodriguez added a three-run homer against Royals reliever Tommy Hottovy in the eighth inning. The Yankees lead the Majors with 44 home runs.

"The Yankees are a club that you can survive very few mistakes," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You make mistakes, and they're a club that's going to take advantage of it on a real regular basis -- and even when you don't make a mistake.

"I thought the Hottovy pitch to Rodriguez was a decent pitch. It was a changeup that caught a little too much of the plate but that was a great piece of hitting. Most hitters would pop that pitch up or drive it into the ground. A-Rod hit it into the seats. They're a very polished offensive team."

Hochevar found that out when he couldn't survive the Yankees' six-run third inning, leaving after Swisher's blast. In 2 1/3 innings, he gave up seven runs on seven hits, a walk and a hit batsman.

Successive singles by Dewayne Wise, Derek Jeter (a bunt) and Curtis Granderson (his 1,000th career hit) produced the first run of the third inning. Rodriguez was plunked by a pitch to load the bases, and Cano, on a 2-1 pitch, lofted a 419-foot drive over the right-field wall. It was Cano's eighth career slam.

"It was down and away, the pitch I wanted to throw," Hochevar said. "He just hit it out."

Right fielder Mitch Maier raced back to the bullpen fence to make a twisting catch of Mark Teixeira's smash for the first out.

"I didn't realize it'd go that far at first," Maier said "When he first hit it up, I didn't break back quite as hard as I probably should have, so instead of being there under it, with my hand against the wall, I was still running back. But fortunately, I was still able to catch it. With the wind blowing, it pushed it back a little further. I'm just glad I got it."

Swisher, back after missing six games with a tight left hamstring, lofted a high home run down the right-field line, and Hochevar was excused by Yost. Luis Mendoza got two quick outs to quell the uprising and stayed around to contribute 4 2/3 innings of relief.

Another plus for Kansas City was the debut of 28-year-old shortstop Irving Falu after nearly 10 years in the Minor Leagues. He tripled in his first at-bat, singled his second time up -- both hits off Hughes -- and played well on defense.

"That was a real positive note, to see all the work that Irving's put in over the last nine, 10 years, get here and have a good day in his debut," Yost said.

But, ah, the Hochevar mystery. Yost is going to turn detective, analyzing video tape, probing Hochevar's mind and consulting with his coaches.

This was the second straight start in which Hochevar was pounded early. On Tuesday at Detroit, he gave up nine runs on 12 hits in four innings. His ERA is up to 9.00.

"Right now, Hoch is kind of in a rut and he's having trouble getting out of it," Yost said. "He had a great start in Cleveland with a lot of pressure on him -- we had a 12-game losing streak -- and he competed his tail off and ended that streak for us. Then he went to Detroit and had a bad game and had another bad game today.

"I'm not sure what it is. His stuff is good; he just gets to a point where he's fighting his location and balls are hitting the fat part of the plate."

And the fat part of bats.

Might Hochevar be taken out of the rotation?

"Nothing that drastic," Yost said.

Could it be that Hochevar is hurt?

"Physically, I'm fine," the right-hander said.

Could it be that Hochevar is somehow tipping his pitches?

"X that off -- that's not it," Yost said.

Hochevar will look into it.

"When you give up a grand slam, that's not what you want," Hochevar said. "But then again, I need to get back to square one and figure it out, and get things going and start helping this club and not be putting us in a hole early in the game. I've just got to bear down and find out whether I'm falling into patterns or whatever it is."

Yost will look into it.

"Pitchers get in slumps just like hitters do, and he's definitely in one now, but it's not something that I don't think he can work his way out of," Yost said.

Stay tuned, mystery fans.

"We'll figure it out," Yost said.

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