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Rays

Hochevar, Royals rout lethargic Rays

Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 06:53 PM
KANSAS CITY -

The Tampa Bay Rays experienced a mix of baseball Monday that, in recent years, has served as the antithesis of all that the club stood for.

In the wake of grabbing two wins Sunday against the Phillies, the Rays (40-33) were done in Monday night by ineffective starting pitching and, again, shaky defense.

It all added up to an 8-0 loss against a Royals team that just dropped three straight to the Cardinals at home. Oh, and the offense stood idle all night, too.

"They beat us fair and square," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Fresh off a dominant outing in his last start, Alex Cobb fell somewhere in between unlucky and ineffective this time.

The numbers didn't look good - 13 hits and eight runs in eight innings - but he gave up only two extra-base hits when the Royals scored six runs in the first three innings.

The big blow came in the third, when seven singles produced six Kansas City runs. Many of those hits weren't scorched, but they found openings.

"It was obvious the game was getting out of hand," Cobb said. "I took a different approach and tried to pitch to contact and get quick outs. Probably should have done that from the beginning."

He labored early, looking like anything but his last outing when he crisply worked seven innings and gave up only two hits.  

His eight runs Monday were the most allowed by a Rays starter since June 14 - nine games total. Yet it was also his first complete game, and he became the first pitcher in the major leagues this season to give up 13 hits and eight or more runs while going the distance.

"I wasn't able to miss many bats tonight," said Cobb, who was pitching on extra rest because of the rainout in Philadelphia. "And unfortunately (hits) were falling everywhere."

The Rays' weakness all season - defensive miscues and errors - came roaring back early. Alex Gordon scored after Mike Moustakas' drive bounced off the tip of right fielder Ben Zobrist's glove, resulting in a double.

A retreating Zobrist probably should have caught the ball.

Then, in the third, Alcides Escobar and Gordon led off with singles. The pair advanced to second and third on a wild pitch from Cobb. That cost the Rays when Yuniesky Betancourt's single scored both runs.

Jeff Francoeur tacked on a run off a bloop single. Yet another run scored in a five-run third when Eric Hosmer's grounder redirected into the outfield off the diving glove of second baseman Sean Rodriguez.

And the offense, in turn, offered little protection.

Royals starter Luke Hochevar, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft but mostly an enigma throughout his career, looked sharp against the Rays, corralling them whenever the hint of a threat appeared. Hochevar (5-7) allowed just seven hits and a walk while striking out eight in his shutout effort.

After Jose Molina and Elliot Johnson led off the fifth with singles, Desmond Jennings, Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton each struck out. Pena and Upton both went down looking against Hochevar.

"He was all over us tonight," Maddon said.

The one positive takeaway for the Rays: Cobb (3-4) gutted his way through eight innings, saving an overworked bullpen. It was so lopsided, in fact, that Maddon came within a few pitches of using infielder Will Rhymes in the eighth.

Rhymes hadn't pitched since he was 12 and likened his stuff to "R.A. Dickey minus the movement."  

He wasn't needed because Cobb battled until the end. On this night, that's about all there was for the Rays.

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