KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - As far as Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon was concerned, Alex Cobb was heroic in defeat.
The 24-year-old starter was hammered for six runs in the first three innings Monday night, the kind of performance that can burn up a bullpen for days to come.
Instead, Cobb managed his first career complete game.
He was out-pitched by Luke Hochevar of the Kansas City Royals, who recorded his second career shutout, but he still managed to soak up enough innings in an 8-0 loss that the Rays' relief corps will be fresh for the remainder of their nine-game trip.
``The average fan may not understand exactly what he did tonight,' Maddon said. ``It's heroic in a baseball sense, because he gave up those five runs (in the third inning). They had a big lead. He did not cave in, he kept making pitches. He stayed on the mound.'
So did Hochevar (5-7), who struck out eight while walking only one in his second straight dominant outing. The same starter who had been allowing a run per inning earlier this season has gone 16 2-3 innings without allowing anybody to cross home plate.
No Royals starter had even gone eight innings so far this season.
``If you don't get him early and permit him to settle in, he gets better,' Maddon said. ``He was all over us tonight.'
Granted, the Rays aren't exactly hitting the cover off the ball at the moment - the combined average of the lineup they fielded against the Royals is .234 on the season.
First baseman Carlos Pena went 0 for 3, dropping his average to .197. Designated hitter Hideki Matsui went 0 for 4 and is hitting .159, while catcher Jose Molina's average is still just .195.
The Royals lineup had been scuffling along only slightly better until figuring out Cobb (3-4), with Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon both getting three hits, Yuniesky Betancourt driving in three runs, and Eric Hosmer adding a homer in the eighth inning to finish off the scoring.
``After the third, it was obvious the game was getting out of hand,' Cobb said. ``Everything they were hitting was dropping. Unfortunately, they were falling everywhere.'
The eight runs and 13 hits Cobb allowed were career highs.
``I just think he didn't have really good command of where he wanted to put his fastball,' Maddon said. ``He was just a little bit off.'
Kansas City came out swinging from the start, with Gordon's leadoff double setting up an RBI double by Mike Moustakas when the ball bounced off right fielder Ben Zobrist's glove and over his head after he appeared to briefly lose it in the setting sun.
Cobb worked through a perfect second inning before coming unglued.
It started with Escobar's bunt single and a base hit by Gordon in the third inning, and included a wild pitch that plate umpire Todd Tichenor accidentally kicked away from Molina, which allowed the two runners advance. Betancourt followed with a two-run single.
Billy Butler came to the plate with one out and added a single, and Jeff Francoeur followed with an RBI single in which Butler was thrown out trying to reach third. Hosmer contributed an RBI single, and Salvador Perez added another run-scoring single, though he was cut down to end the inning after making a wide turn around first.
The Royals had five runs on seven singles in eight batters in the inning.
Betancourt added a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning, and Hosmer went deep in the eighth, though none of it was necessary the way Hochevar was dealing on a steamy night in Kansas City.
Hochevar got some help from double plays in the first and seventh innings, but otherwise took care of things himself. He worked a perfect second and sixth, and came back from consecutive base hits to start the fifth with three consecutive strikeouts.
It was the first time he had gone eight innings since last Sept. 3 against Cleveland.
This time, Hochevar managed to finish things off.
``I guess I have to come up with a better word than fantastic, tremendous and great. He was phenomenal,' Royals manager Ned Yost said. ``The results have been dramatically improved since he got back to his three core pitches. He's starting to show exactly what he can do.'
Notes: Hochevar's last shutout was Sept. 18, 2009, at the White Sox. ... Royals RHP Roman Colon was assigned outright to Triple-A Omaha. ... LHP Matt Moore starts Tuesday night for Tampa Bay. LHP Bruce Chen goes for Kansas City. ... The game took 2 hours, 17 minutes.
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