03/18/12 1:15 AM ET
Butler stays hot but Royals fall to Padres
By Owen Perkins / Special to MLB.com
The Padres jumped out to a five-run lead in the first frame, batting around the order with five hits and a hit batsman. Yonder Alonso belted a three-run double off the fence in right, and Jonathan Galvez drove a two-run homer onto the left-field berm to cap the early scoring.
The Royals got a pair back in the third, though the Padres nearly stifled the rally when Brayan Pena and Alcides Escobar were both heading to third base from different directions. Pena ended up being thrown out in a rundown between third and home. After a walk to load the bases with one out, the Padres tried to turn two on an Eric Hosmer grounder to second, but Hosmer was called safe in a close play and Escobar scored. Billy Butler followed with an RBI single up the middle to close the gap to 5-2.
Padres starter Cory Luebke pitched well in his third Cactus League outing, holding the Royals to a pair of runs on six hits and a walk over four innings. Luebke struck out four, throwing 63 pitches, 44 for strikes. He lost some command in the third inning, giving up three hits and a walk before retiring anyone, but he managed to lower his spring ERA to 2.00.
"The inning they got the runs, the 0-2 pitch to [Pena], I got to make a better pitch there," said Luebke. "He started things off. They battled, they put the ball in play, and some balls bounced in holes. The last inning, I got to work on some offspeed pitches."
Bruce Chen, the Royals' No. 2 starter, had another rough outing, allowing five runs on eight hits in three innings. He allowed no walks and struck out two, while throwing 66 pitches, 46 for strikes. His stuff wasn't fooling the Padres, as they teed off and pushed Chen's Cactus League ERA to 11.74 after three starts.
"I'm taking it one step at a time," Chen said. "Obviously, this is not the way I want to be pitching. After the first inning, I made some adjustments. I think I was a little more aggressive. I'm very happy with the way I threw the ball after the first inning."
Up next: Luke Hochevar will make his third start of the spring, going against the Indians at 3:05 p.m. CT on Sunday at Surprise Stadium. Closer Joakim Soria, who has struggled this spring, is also scheduled to pitch along with left-handers Tim Collins and Jose Mijares and right-handers Greg Holland and Sean O'Sullivan. The Royals will have their only Arizona open date on Monday.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.