It wasn't a pleasant Opening Day for Kansas City Royals fans today as the Royals were defeated by the Los Angeles Angels 4-2. The game time temperature of 45 degrees kept many fans bundled up as Luke Hochevar took the mound for his first career Opening Day start.
Los Angeles was able to load up the bases in the first inning off Hochevar, and many Royals fans probably wondered how ugly it was going to get, but Hochevar got Erick Aybar to ground out to second, allowing the Royals to go unscathed in the first.
Jered Weaver was the starter for the Angels and he looked dominant from the start, going 6.1 innings and giving up just two hits, to go with six strikeouts and two walks. Weaver didn't allow a baserunner until the third when Chris Getz walked, and didn't give up a hit until Melky Cabrera singled with one out in the fourth inning.
Meanwhile, Hochevar threw 5.2 innings and on the day gave up four runs on nine hits, though only three on the runs were earned. He also struck out five and didn't walk anyone.
The Angels got on the board first when Torii Hunter rocketed a home run to center off Hochevar for a 1-0 lead. Back-to-back doubles by Vernon Wells and Aybar plated another run as it soon became 2-0. Hochevar then gave up two hits in the fourth, but held the Angels scoreless.
With two outs in the sixth, catcher Jeff Mathis went deep of Hochevar and then Peter Bourjos singled and advanced to third on two errors by the Kansas City infield. Bourjos then scored on a Maicer Izturis single to stretch it to 4-0 and knock Hochevar out of the game.
Errors were plenty, as Kansas City committed three on the day, one each by Mike Aviles, Hochevar, and Getz. It seems as though the Angels were consistently hitting awkward balls toward Mike Aviles at third base often during the early portion of the game.
After Hochevar was removed from the game, the Royals brought out a trio of rookie pitchers. They did a great job on the afternoon, considering it was still a close game and all of them were in a major league game for just the first time.
The combination of Aaron Crow, Nathan Adcock, and Tim Collins pitched 3.1 innings combined, and gave up three hits, a walk, and four strikeouts to keep the Royals in the game. Crow was particularly impressive, tossing 1.1 innings and striking out three.
Kansas City finally got on the board in the bottom of the seventh, when Jeff Francoeur hit a home run into the left field Royals bullpen off reliever Hisanori Takahashi. It was Francoeur's first home run in a Royals uniform, and also accounted for Kansas City's first run of the new season.
Aviles then homered off Kevin Jepsen to pull the Royals within 4-2, and Cabrera, Billy Butler, and Kila Ka`aihue walked to load the bases and bring the crowd back into it, before Michael Kohn got Francoeur to strike out on a high pitch, and then Alcides Escobar flied out to right to end the Royals scoring threat.
Collins made his debut in the ninth, allowing Kansas City to stay within two runs, as Angels closer Fernando Rodney came in to close out the game. However the Royals made it interesting again in the ninth as Matt Treanor walked, and then Cabrera singled to right with two outs, advancing Treanor to third. Alex Gordon came up to bat with two on, and two out and represented the winning run. On an 1-0 count, Gordon hit a deep shot to left that had fans briefly thinking about a comeback victory, but it went foul. Gordon eventually struck out on a high 97 mph Rodney fastball as the Royals fell 4-2.
While it was tough to watch early on, you had to be impressed by the young Royals relievers and by the ability of the Royals to fight back against the Angels bullpen. In all, Los Angeles has to use six pitchers to pick up the win. Weaver picked up the win, Hochevar the loss, and Rodney the save for the Angels.
Offensively, Kansas City only posted three hits, but Cabrera was 3-for-4 on the day with a stolen base in his Royals debut. Butler, the team's most productive hitters, was 0-for-2 but did walk twice. On the negative end, Alex Gordon was 0-for-5 with 3 strikeouts, including the final out.
The season continues tomorrow evening at 7:10 as another new Royals face, Jeff Francis, heads out to take on Dan Haren and the Angels. A boxscore from today can be found here.