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KC@TB: Hochevar fans 10 over eight dominant innings

ST. PETERSBURG -- This was a double shutout shootout, a classic duel between Kansas City's Luke Hochevar and Tampa Bay's David Price.

Neither starting pitcher allowed a run for eight superb innings and neither was around for the extra-inning finish as the Royals won, 1-0, in the 10th on an unearned run. But their performances made it something special.

"Wow!" Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Superb. Just dominant pitching on both sides for 10 innings. We scratched one out, but I can't say enough for the job that Hoch did, matching up with Price."

The deciding run came with a scratch hit, an error and a blooper.

Rays reliever Joel Peralta got two outs in the 10th, but Jeff Francoeur singled on a ground ball into the shortstop hole and took second when Ben Zobrist's throw went past first base. On a 2-0 count, Eric Hosmer looped a single over Zobrist into center field and Francoeur raced home.

"Kind of watching Zobrist go after it, he was running in circles out there and I didn't think he had a good bead on it," Hosmer said. "So I was just hoping it'd fall at that time. I didn't hit it too hard, didn't hit it too soft. It was a perfect spot so I'll take it."

Francoeur figured that center fielder B.J. Upton was playing deep with Hosmer ahead in the count and he was right. The ball dropped safely in front of Upton as he scored.

That was the postscript to a superbly scripted pitching masterpiece.

"We knew the way Price has been pitching for the last seven weeks, we had to have Hoch pitch a game like he did -- and he did," Francoeur said. "To be honest, he matched him pitch for pitch and was better. He gave up one hit. It was fun to watch him do that."

Indeed, throughout the pitching-rich evening, right-hander Hochevar kept pace with left-hander Price, the Rays' presumptive candidate, as the saying goes this election year, for the American League Cy Young Award. After all, his credentials include a 16-4 record and a 2.28 ERA.

But Hochevar worked through eight scoreless innings, giving up one hit and three walks with 10 strikeouts. He extended his streak of scoreless innings against the Rays to 17 -- he beat them, 8-0, in a complete-game effort on June 25 in Kansas City. This time, though, he thought he was even better.

"I was OK with my breaking ball, but I felt like my fastball command was the best that it's been all year," Hochevar said.

Price was pulled first by manager Joe Maddon after the eighth and right-hander Fernando Rodney took the mound for a scoreless ninth. Price had thrown 114 pitches, giving up just three singles and zero walks.

"That was the whole plan," Yost said. "Get him out of the game and let's duke it out with the bullpens. That's exactly what happened."

Yost didn't consider sending Hochevar out for the ninth inning.

"Not really, he'd pitched his tail off and I knew that Price was done, and that was it for Hoch. I knew I had a full 'pen, well-rested," Yost said.

The only hit off of Hochevar was Luke Scott's leadoff double in the third inning. Scott took third as Ryan Roberts flied out to deep center, but Hochevar ended the inning with two strikeouts.

He got help from catcher Salvador Perez who, after Matt Joyce walked in the fourth, picked him off of first base with a lightning throw to Hosmer. That was the fifth pickoff in the 82 games behind the plate in his career. The Rays should have known better; Perez's first two pickoffs came against them in his Major League debut here last year.

"That's Hosmer's call," Perez said. "He gave me a sign when we saw the guy with a big lead. It's a good combination, Hosmer and me."

Against Price, Billy Butler singled to open the second inning, but he was stranded as third baseman Evan Longoria leaped to catch Perez's line drive and Mike Moustakas and Francoeur watched third strikes.

"Early on I had a lot of hard hit balls right at people," Price said. "That's what you've gotta have. It's good to have those. When you're throwing good, that's what happens. When you're not, those balls seem to find holes."

Only two more balls found holes against Price -- singles by Lorenzo Cain in the sixth and by Hosmer in the eighth but both came after two outs and both were stranded.

The Royals survived a brief scare in the ninth. Reliever Kelvin Herrera got two outs and seemed to have a third on Joyce's grounder to second baseman Johnny Giavotella. But both Herrera and Hosmer, breaking too late, wound up covering first base. There was a mix-up and Giavotella's throw was caught by Herrera whose foot was off the bag. Joyce got a single but Herrera retired pinch-hitter Jeff Keppinger on a fly to right

After the Royals went ahead, Greg Holland worked a perfect 10th for his sixth save. Herrera got the victory, his first in the Majors, and the reward of a traditional beer shower in the clubhouse. The spirited Royals added a dash of baby powder to Herrera's head before dumping on the brew.

"I smell like shampoo, like baby powder and like beer," Herrera said, smiling. "I want to get a lot of those showers."

The victory came in Herrera's 58th big league outing.

"That was like the first day I got here in the big leagues. It's a big day in my life," Herrera said.

Big day, too, for the Royals who snapped the red-hot Rays' five-game win streak and won themselves for the 14th time in their last 21 games.

"We've been playing really well these past couple weeks, so just the way we've been swinging the bats and playing defense, you knew they were going to pull through whether it took 11 innings or 15," Hochevar said. "I just feel like we're clicking really well right now."

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