OAKLAND -- Luke Hochevar brought a fresh arm to the Royals on Sunday, but he couldn't pull them out of their stale slide.

Hochevar was roughed up for six runs and the Royals lost their fourth straight game, 7-1, to the Oakland Athletics as 18,645 fans sunned themselves on a 52-degree afternoon at McAfee Coliseum. The Royals managed just three hits, all singles.

The loss was the fifth in six games for the Royals, who fell under .500 (9-10) for the first time this season. They are 2 1/2 games behind the American League Central-leading Chicago White Sox and tied with the Minnesota Twins for second place.

When they began this trip with a victory at Seattle, the Royals were in first place by a half-game. The journey through three West Coast cities in seven days, however, ended with a 2-5 record.

"We had started the road trip off pretty good and you don't envision going 2-5, but that's what happened," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "It's tough.

"It snowballed on us and it was a bad series. There's no other way of putting it."

Hochevar was making his second Major League start -- his first came last September -- after being activated on Sunday morning to replace the disabled John Bale in the rotation. To make room, the Royals cut veteran Hideo Nomo from the roster.

His first crisis sprang up in the second inning and he survived in style. Jack Cust walked, Bobby Crosby singled and they advanced to second and third as Ryan Sweeney bounced out. But Hochevar responded with back-to-back strikeouts of Chris Denorfia and Rob Bowen.

"I made some pitches when I needed to right there," Hochevar said, "but I should have made pitches to avoid being in that jam."

Within a few minutes the Royals got Hochevar a run against his left-handed opponent, Dana Eveland. Nothing very glamorous. John Buck walked, took third on Alberto Callaspo's bloop single and scored as Joey Gathright rolled into a double play. But it worked.

Nothing else did all afternoon for the Royals.

Hochevar's second crisis did not end so favorably. In fact, by the time the A's fourth ended they had sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs. With two on and two out, Hochevar came within a strike of a second survival, but this time Denorfia singled up the middle for a 1-1 tie.

"The ball got up a little bit and they put it in play and they found some holes," Hochevar said. "That's the cost of doing business, I guess. You give up a hit with two outs and I'm not going to back down and start nibbling. I'm going to stay aggressive."

Hochevar kept firing, but Denorfia's blow was just the first of five straight hits that included Jack Hannahan's two-run double to deep left. Hochevar found himself in a 5-1 hole.

"They had a little luck mixed in there, but sometimes that's what it takes," Hillman said. "We didn't have much of that at all.

Two strikeouts in the fifth ran Hochevar's total to five, but Sweeney's double, a walk and Bowen's RBI double ended the rookie's 2008 debut. In 4 2/3 innings, he gave up six runs on nine hits and three walks.

"I wanted to come in and win and go deeper in the ballgame," he said. "Maybe I should have taken back the game and knocked somebody down or whatever it is."

Hochevar, the nation's No. 1 Draft choice of 2006, is certain to get at least one more start because Bale is on the disabled list for at least 10 more days.

Eveland, facing the Royals for the first time, held them to one run on three hits in his 5 2/3 innings. The last hit was by Billy Butler, who maintained his run of reaching base in every game this season. He's hit safely in 18 of the 19 games.

The A's three-game sweep was their first over the Royals in Oakland since May 21-23, 2004. Between the two wipeouts, the Royals were dominant at the Coliseum with an 11-5 record.

Now the A's, it seems, have reclaimed their home turf.