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OAK@KC: Hochevar fans five over seven strong innings

KANSAS CITY -- Luke Hochevar threw a fine game but he was pitching against Oakland, and on such occasions, not much good happens for the Kansas City right-hander. The Athletics are poison for Hochevar.

When the A's stifled the Royals, 3-0, on Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium, Hochevar's career record against them thudded to 0-8 in nine starts. That's "0" as in zero and ouch.

The A's zapped Hochevar with solo home runs by Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes and the Royals' offense sputtered against rookie right-hander Dan Straily and a parade of four relievers.

Hochevar tries to banish thoughts of A's mastery and misery when he faces the green and gold.

"It doesn't matter who I'm facing or what the lineup is, no matter what my history is," Hochevar said. "If you start thinking about that, then you've already got a hill to climb. So you just go out there and fight for every single pitch, regardless of who it is."

Basically two pitches did him in.

With two outs in the sixth inning, Crisp sent Hochevar's 2-0 pitch to right field, where the ball cleared the wall but bounced off a railing bordering the porch next to the visitors' bullpen. The ball caromed back onto the field and was grabbed by the Royals' Jeff Francoeur as Crisp raced to second base and stopped.

Initially it was ruled a double but, with A's manager Bob Melvin expressing doubt, the umpires quickly decided on a video review. They emerged to signal a home run, Crisp's sixth of the season, for a 1-0 A's lead.

Cespedes homered on an 0-2 pitch Hochevar in the seventh and this was a no-doubter, sailing 402 feet into the left-field seats. It was his 15th this year.

"I fell behind to Coco and made an aggressive pitch, my fastball middle away. He put a good swing on it," Hochevar said. "Then with Cespedes, I threw two fastballs right by him on the outer half. I tried it a third time and he caught it."

Hochevar was sent back out for the eighth inning, but was quickly removed after walking Derek Norris.

"I wanted to give him the opportunity, on a short leash, to see if he could get through the eighth inning and maybe pick up a win," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I thought he threw the ball well enough to deserve a win."

Left-hander Tim Collins took over and notched two strikeouts but, after Norris stole second, gave up an RBI single to Jemile Weeks.

The hit snapped Collins' streak of striking out six consecutive batters, but he fanned Josh Reddick to end the inning. That gave Collins 80 strikeouts, most by an American League reliever.

Straily, making his third start since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento, survived a bases-loaded threat in the Royals' second inning. With one out, Salvador Perez singled and Mike Moustakas walked and, after Francoeur popped out, Eric Hosmer also walked. But Straily got Chris Getz to bounce to first base for the third out.

After Billy Butler singled and Perez flied out in the seventh, Straily was relieved by left-hander Sean Doolittle. He gave up singles to Moustakas and Hosmer, sandwiched around a strikeout of Francoeur, and once again the Royals had the bases loaded. The A's switched to another lefty, Jerry Blevins, who got Getz to fly out.

Straily was rewarded with his first Major League victory.

"I'd never seen him before. He had good stuff, pretty sneaky fastball," said Alex Gordon, who was hitless against Straily. "For me, as a lefty, he threw me a couple good changeups and kept me off-balance. Our offense didn't support Hoch at all; he threw a heck of a game and we just didn't do anything for him."

The only Royals hitter with a plus evening was Hosmer, who was 2-for-2 with a walk. He's enjoyed his time against the A's; he's 20-for-60 (.333) against them in his two years in the Majors.

So the A's salvaged the finale of the three-game series, but the Royals won the season series, 5-4. Five of the games were shutouts with the Royals winning four of them.

The A's finished their trip to Chicago and KC with a 2-4 record.

"You don't want to go home 1-5," Melvin said. "This is a team that does match up very well against us, and they've pitched us very well. I think that's the first run we've scored off their bullpen all year. They're a difficult team. They have a good lineup all the way through. They have a terrific bullpen. That's a good team. They've battled us all year."

Including Hochevar, but all he has to show for his battles are two more losses.

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