Yost sticks with Hochevar, suffers first loss
Hurler, Royals falter in seventh, lose early lead to White Sox
KANSAS CITY -- Ned Yost is quickly demonstrating to Royals fans how he plans to manage this season.
That was evident as the Royals lost to the White Sox, 5-4, on a rainy Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium -- evening Yost's record at 1 after a successful debut 24 hours before.
"You manage two ways every night," Yost said. "You manage for the small picture -- everything you can do to win tonight. But you also manage for the big picture, because we're trying to change things around here. We're trying to take ourselves to the next level."
That big picture accounted for the risk he took with the little picture, as his starting pitcher, Luke Hochevar, struggled in the seventh inning. When it was over, Hochevar had given up a 4-1 lead and the White Sox scored four runs and won the game, which started just over an hour late because of showers.
Hochevar had breezed through six innings when, with one out, he banged headlong into the big inning that has often betrayed him. But even as Mark Kotsay and Alexei Ramirez singled and Mark Teahen walked to load the bases, there was no stirring in the bullpen.
"We had that ballgame won. That's on me; I gave that game away," Hochevar said. "I need to get it done in that inning and get out of that. That's not good."
That's what Yost and Hochevar discussed in the manager's office right after the final out.
"Hoch is a guy that, when we get to the next level as an organization, he's going to be a guy that's probably going to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, and he needs to find ways to not let that happen," Yost said.
Finally, Brad Thompson started throwing in the 'pen. And after Ramon Castro drilled a two-run single, Juan Pierre punched an RBI single to tie the score and Gordon Beckham looped a single, Hochevar was finally lifted.
"You can't run and get him every time he gets in a little bit of trouble," Yost said. "He has to learn how to pitch his way through that situation before he can really take it to the next level and, I mean, a 15- to 18-game winner and helping us win a championship."
Thompson gave up a sacrifice fly to Andruw Jones -- a drive to deep center that snapped the 4-4 tie.
Jake Peavy, the White Sox starter who'd been nailed by Alberto Callaspo's three-run double in the first inning and Billy Butler's homer in the third, was still going. In fact, he began the ninth inning before finally needing relief help from lefty Matt Thornton.
In the process, Peavy gave Hochevar a live demonstration on how to survive.
"Like I told Hoch, that's a perfect example," Yost said. "Callaspo got the big hit in the first inning to give us a three-run lead, but Peavy stopped the bleeding and he settled down and made pitches right into the ninth inning. And that's the kind of guy I see Hoch becoming."
Hochevar, after giving up a second-inning run, breezed through the sixth inning, and getting help from shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt's diving stop, was looking invincible. Not for much longer, though, because the Sox were about to punch out five singles.
"It's the type of baseball we're going to have to play," Peavy said. "We're going to have to grind it out. We know that. We've said that from Spring Training -- be a bunch of dirt bags and just don't quit and keep coming, and we did that tonight against a guy who was in a nice groove."
It was Peavy who really got in a nice groove after Butler's fourth home run soared over the left-field wall. From that point on, he faced the minimum 17 batters through the eighth despite two singles.
"Give him a lot of credit. We could've added some more, but obviously he shut us down," Butler said. "I felt like we could've made him work a little harder later.
"We had them on the ropes. That's a game we should have won. They can feel fortunate they won that game, because we had it in our hands."
But the little picture was lost, as Yost took a chance on fixing the big picture with Hochevar.
"In terms of that, he has to learn how to take his game to the next level, and you don't do it by getting taken out of situations when you get in trouble," Yost said. "And sometimes they hurt like tonight, but you can take a night that hurts and learn from it and become a better pitcher."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.