By Jeff Parker
Don’t put the bust label on Luke Hochevar just yet, as the 2006 No. 1 overall pick is in an ace-like groove. Drafted ahead of Tim Lincecum that year, he has done a pretty good Lincecum impersonation in his last three starts totaling 27 strikeouts in 19.1 innings while walking only one batter.
Saturday night he became the first Royal in the team’s 41-year history to record 13 strikeouts in a game with zero walks. Steve Busby never did it. Dennis Leonard never did it. Nor did Bret Saberhagen, Kevin Appier, or David Cone. Zack Greinke hasn’t done it yet (although he does have four 10/0 K/BB games to his credit!). In Hochevar’s last two starts he has 22 strikeouts and zero walks in 13.1 innings.
Saturday night’s performance also ended the Royals’ 10-game losing streak. It was the third time this season he has ended a losing streak (he previously ended 4- and 8-game slides). You would expect guys drafted #1 overall to be stoppers.
While his season stats look ordinary (6-3, 4.84 ERA) he has been quite good in nine starts since his second recall from Triple-A Omaha on June 6. Hochevar, 25, has gone 6-1 with a 3.66 ERA in that span as KC has won seven of the nine games. He was 5-1 with a 1.50 ERA in eight Omaha starts.
Though KC is sitting in last place, they are 8-4 overall in games started by Hochevar. That is an encouraging sign because an emerging Hochevar, paired with Greinke, makes the future a little less painful for Royals fans.