Indians 7, Royals 5

If anybody wonders whether the first-place Cleveland Indians are

for real, Justin Masterson suggests they take a close look at

Wednesday night’s 7-5 victory over Kansas City.

Royals starter Luke Hochevar was perfect through five innings.

Masterson, the Indians’ starter, had a very shaky first. But

Hochevar broke down and Masterson held up and the Indians, who were

8-10 after 18 games last year, improved to 13-5.

”A game like today kind of shows you when things are going

right,” said Masterson (4-0). ”The hitters sticking in with a guy

who’s throwing no-hit stuff. A pitcher struggling a little bit but

really fighting and keeping us in the game. When you can win games

like that, that’s what good teams do. and we were able to win this

game tonight.”

Hochevar (2-2) retired the first 15 batters, allowing only three

balls to be hit hard, and ran his string of retired batters over

two starts to 31 straight. But he lost his no-hitter, his shutout,

his composure and his lead in a messy sixth that included two balks

and saw the Indians send nine men to the plate.

Hochevar was as confused as anyone by his sudden descent from

perfect to putrid.

”I don’t know if I really have an answer,” he said. ”I felt

like I was throwing the ball well. The two balks was my fault.

There’s really no excuse for it. It all lies on me. I’ve got to

make better pitches and get out of that.”

Masterson, 6-13 a year ago, allowed six hits and five walks and

struck out three in six innings.

”We definitely have the talent,” said Masterson. ”We’re going

to keep fighting. It’s a long season but I think we’ve got a lot

going for us.”

Michael Brantley’s leadoff single in the sixth broke up

Hochevar’s perfect game, then the pitcher balked him to second and

surrendered an RBI double to Matt LaPorta. After LaPorta went to

third on an infield out, Hochevar balked him home, tying it

2-all.

Before Orlando Cabrera struck out on the 36th pitch of the

inning, the Indians had taken a 4-2 lead on two-out RBI doubles by

Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner.

After Hochevar walked the first two batters in the seventh, Tim

Collins relieved and No. 9 hitter Jack Hannahan, after failing to

sacrifice, pulled a two-run double into the right-field corner.

”What we were trying to do was get him (to pitch) from the

stretch,” said Cleveland manager Manny Acta. ”Since he was

pitching a no-hitter, he hadn’t been in the stretch at all. That

was the main thing. Hey, let’s try to get him from the stretch.

Maybe for the first time, he was a little uncomfortable. Then when

Brantley got on, things went from there.”

Melky Cabrera’s RBI double in the ninth off Tony Sipp ended a

string of 9 1-3 scoreless innings for the Cleveland bullpen and

Jeff Francoeur, on an 0-2 pitch with two out, followed with a

two-run home run. Francoeur, running his hitting streak to 10 in a

row, had three RBIs.

Chris Perez came in to get the last out and earn his sixth save

in six opportunities.

With two out in the seventh, Collins walked Carlos Santana,

loading the bases, but Travis Hafner took a called third

strike.

Hochevar wound up getting charged with six runs on five hits,

with four strikeouts, three walks and two balks as the Indians

widened their lead in the AL Central to two games over the

Royals.

”Hochevar’s stuff for the first five innings was as good as

I’ve ever seen it,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. ”Brantley led

off the sixth with a hit and he just unraveled. The two balks hurt

him. He hung a breaking ball to LaPorta that hurt him. He just

could never reel it back in.”

Going back to his previous start when he held Seattle to one hit

in seven innings, Hochevar had retired 31 in a row, two short of

the team record Steve Busby set in 1974.

”It’s frustrating, no doubt about it,” said Hochevar. ”You

move on and get ready for your next start. It’s not what you want

to have happen or plan to have happened, but it happened. You flush

it and move on.”

The Royals took a 2-0 lead in the first on Francoeur’s RBI

single and an RBI triple by Alex Gordon, who stretched his hitting

streak to 14 games, best in the American League.

Carlos Santana had an RBI single off Kanekoa Texeira in the

ninth.

NOTES: With Gordon having a 14-game hitting streak and Wilson

Betemit hitting in 11 straight and Francoeur in 10, the Royals have

three players with double-digit streaks for the first time since

May 22, 2001. Mike Sweeney on that day had a 13-gamer and Joe Randa

and Rey Sanchez had each hit in 10 straight. … Masterson was only

0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in six spring starts after going 6-13 with a

4.70 the year before. … The Cleveland bullpen started the night

with the best ERA (2.47) in the AL.