One of my favorite terms in the baseball vernacular is "stopper." The starting pitcher who is so good, he won't allow a losing streak to continue.
Luke Hochevar, for most of his career, has been more than a starter. He has been a fire starter. He has been the guy with the match, the gasoline and the evil, cackling laugh as innocents run screaming from the flames.
After a modestly successful start to the season, Hochevar was called upon to start the Royals first home stand this season and immediately gave up seven runs in the top of the first inning, before the team even had a chance to take some practice swings in the batter's box. That led to the infamous 12-game losing streak and a hole the Royals are still trying to crawl out of.
That wasn't even Hochevar's worst start of the season. Going by game score, his outing on May 1st, in which he spotted the Tigers five runs in the first inning on his way to giving up 12 hits in four innings. That netted him a game score of one. Yes, one. I'm not sure if negative game scores are possible, but when average is 50, one is not very good.
Of course, as is his want, the Hoch has turned things around again this year, stringing together three quality starts in a row, and putting up an ERA of 4.11 in the ten starts since the debacle in Detroit.
And, yesterday's gem was the best yet. After another positive road trip, the Royals had climbed to within five games of .500, only to get swept by the always-annoyingly-better Cardinals, including a power show by a former favorite son, Carlos Beltran.
The team had trotted out Vin Mazzaro, Luis Mendoza and Jonathan Sanchez since learning that Felipe Paulino would be the fourth pitcher this year to get Tommy John surgery. Three games is not a serious losing streak in baseball, but the Royals were on the edge of meltdown and needed something good to happen.
They needed a stopper.
Luke Hochevar threw a complete game shutout with eight Ks against a single walk.
He may turn into a pumpkin in his next outing (few pitchers who put up game scores of one last long in the big leagues), but for one night, Luke Hochevar was exactly what the Royals needed.
Now, C'mon Chen!