KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Luke Hochevar picked up his first big league win in just his third career start, but he’s already sounding like a wily veteran giving all the credit to the guys playing behind him.
“I can’t stand here and say I pitched a good game,” Hochevar said. “We played unbelievable defense. With the type of pitcher I am, I need a good defense. I try to induce contact and get ground balls. With a defense this good, it makes it very easy to do so.”
Jose Guillen provided the power, hitting his first home run at Kauffman Stadium with the Royals, and Tony Pena Jr. made a game-saving defensive play as Kansas City edged the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 Saturday night.
“You dream of that since you’re a little kid,” said Hochevar, who was given the game ball and lineup card. “To get the first one is pretty surreal.”
Pena, who committed an error in the fifth that led to the only Blue Rays run, made a defensive gem in the eighth. With the bases loaded and two out, Adam Lind hit a grounder deep into the hole at shortstop. Pena threw out Lind from his knees by a half step.
“To get a chance to make that play in the eighth was very important to me,” Pena said. “I feel very comfortable throwing the ball to first, right there. I know I could have gotten him out. I just went with my instincts.
“The grass is a little wet and I just slipped. I tried to stop as soon as possible and get some momentum throwing to first. You know it’s the most important play at that point.”
Pena called it one of the best defensive plays of his career.
“That was at a pretty crucial time,” Royals catcher John Buck said. “If he throws it away, that’s probably two runs. If he doesn’t get it, it is tied up and the rally is still going. For him, just to knock the ball down in the hole where he did was an impressive play. For him to throw it like that was all more impressive.”
The Blue Jays have lost six straight and 10 of 13, and fell five games below .500 for the first time since last May 25.
“There’s not much that I can say,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “It’s a game we could have and should have won, probably.”
Hochevar (1-1), the first selection in the 2006 draft, held Toronto to six hits and one run in six innings in his seventh major league appearance. He struck out three and walked two.
“Fate loves the fearless, so I wanted to come out and pound the strike zone,” Hochevar said. “This is my first major league outing that I haven’t had an unbelievable amount of adrenaline rush. I was able to be myself. Those are my key points—throw strikes, keep the ball down and get ahead.”
Guillen, who the Royals signed to a three-year, $36 million contract in December to boost a punchless offense, homered to left off Shaun Marcum to lead off the sixth and snap a 1-1 tie.
The Royals’ Mark Teahen led off the third with a double down the right-field line and scored on Ross Gload’s single, and the Blue Jays tied it in the fifth when former Royal Gregg Zaun led off the inning with a double and stopped at third on Eckstein’s single.
Zaun scored when Pena committed the fielding error on Alex Rios’ ground ball.
Marcum (2-2), who went to Excelsior Springs (Mo.) High School in suburban Kansas City suburb, limited the Royals to four hits and one run in seven innings. He struck out four and walked three.
“It’s always nice to come home and be in front of your friends and family, but that’s not the most important thing,” Marcum said. “The most important thing is going out there and winning ball games. We just weren’t able to do it tonight.”
The Blue Jays went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranded four runners at third base—Scott Rolen in the second and fourth innings, Eckstein in the third and Rios in the eighth. Toronto stranded 10 runners in all, including seven in scoring position.
“When I get in those tough situations, I need to go to my strengths and I felt like tonight I did a good job with that,” Hochevar said. “I threw fastballs down in the zone and induced ground balls.”
Royals 2B Mark Grudzielanek missed his fourth straight game with an irritated nerve on a disc in his lower back. … The Blue Jays are 4-for-42 with runners in scoring position in the first five games of this trip. … Eckstein had three of the eight Blue Jays hits. … The Royals have won back-to-back games for the first time since April 13-14.