Hochevar's brilliant outing propels O-Royals

Luke Hochevar turned in his best outing of the year on Monday, limiting the Albuquerque Isotopes to one run in eight innings of work, as the O-Royals pushed their record to 7-5. Elsewhere in the minors, the Naturals lost, and the Wilmington Blue Rocks were rained out. RC recaps all of Monday's minor league action inside.

Low-A: Burlington Bees

The Burlington Bees had Monday off, giving them a two-day break after being rained out in Beloit on Sunday. The club begins a four-game series with the Kane County Cougars on Tuesday, with Zach Peterson on the mound for the Bees in the opener. The Bees dropped two of three to Kane County last week. Peterson last pitched on April 14, when he shut out the Cougars over 5.2 innings, surrendering just four hits and a walk while striking out three.

High-A: Wilmington Blue Rocks

The game between the Wilmington Blue Rocks and Salem Red Sox (formerly the Avalanche – forgive RC's earlier error) was rained out on Monday. A doubleheader has been scheduled for Tuesday, with Danny Duffy taking the mound for the Rocks in game one. Ray Liotta is scheduled to pitch for Wilmington in the second game.

Double-A: NW Arkansas Naturals

Corpus Christi 12, Northwest Arkansas 6

Starting pitcher Dan Cortes on Tuesday endured yet another tough outing as the Naturals lost to the Hooks, 12-6. Cortes pitched five innings and surrendered four runs, all in the first inning. His line, however, might not be as bad as it appears in the box score. After giving up a line drive single to lead off the game, the rest of the hits Cortes yielded in the first inning were ground ball singles, so perhaps he was simply a victim of bad luck.

Regardless, Cortes through three starts has an 0-2 record with a 7.71 ERA, certainly not the start the 22-year old – and the Royals – were hoping for. On a positive note, Cortes has struck out over a batter an inning thus far, fanning 13 batters in 11.2 innings pitched (vs. five walks).

Despite the rough start, Cortes exited with a 6-4 lead, handing the game off to the bullpen in the sixth inning. Carlos Sencion took over and got just two outs while surrendering three runs before giving way to Victor Marte. Marte held the line for 2.1 innings, giving up just one run, but Kyle Crist surrendered four more runs in two-thirds of an inning in the ninth. Chris Nicoll entered the game and struck out the only batter he faced, but by that time, the Naturals were down by six runs. Sencion was tagged with his second blown save and his first loss of the season.

Down 4-0 in the bottom of the first, the Naturals responded with three runs. Jose Duarte led off and walked, and he came around to score on an RBI single by Mario Lisson. Lisson and Cody Strait later scored on a two-run double by Jordan Parraz.

The Naturals took the lead in the fourth inning, when Kurt Mertins slammed an RBI triple and scored on a John Suomi ground out. They added another run in the fifth, when Duarte doubled and scored on another RBI single by Lisson. On the day, Duarte was 2-for-4 with a walk, and by reaching base three times he pushed his on-base percentage to .489. Lisson was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, while Parraz also knocked in a pair in his 2-for-3 effort.

The Naturals (5-6) and Hooks (6-5) conclude their three-game series on Tuesday afternoon. Anthony Lerew (0-0, 2.25 ERA) will take the mound for NW Arkansas with the goal of helping the Naturals avoid being swept for the first time this season.

Triple-A: Omaha Royals

Omaha 7, Albuquerque 2

Luke Hochevar's third straight excellent outing was his best yet, as the Omaha Royals rolled over the Isotopes, 7-2. Hochevar went eight strong innings, scattering five hits and two walks while yielding just one run. The 25-year-old right-hander struck out four batters, and his sinker was clearly working well, as he had a 15-4 groundout-to-flyout ratio on the day. Through three starts with the O-Royals, Hochevar is 3-0 with a miniscule 1.89 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP, and one has to wonder if a promotion back to Kansas City could come relatively soon.

Omaha first struck in the first inning, when back-to-back doubles by J.R. House and Kila Kaaihue plated a run. The O-Royals added three more in the sixth inning, when a bases loaded walk by Chris Lubanski scored House, and an Irving Falu ground out knocked in Ka'aihue. Shortstop Luis Hernandez plated the third run with a two-out single.

Falu knocked in another run in the eighth, when the O-Royals added three more runs to their lead. Second baseman Tug Hulett had the big knock in that frame with a two-run single.

On the day, the offense banged out 11 hits in support of Hochevar, with Ryan Shealy's 3-for-4 effort leading the way. House was 2-for-4, while Ka'aihue was 1-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. Hernandez was 2-for-3 with an RBI and run scored, and he's now hitting .389 on the season.

The O-Royals (7-5) now travel to Oklahoma City, where they open a four-game series with the RedHawks on Tuesday. Heath Phillips (1-1, 4.50) gets the start for Omaha. Phillips last pitched on Wednesday, dropping his first decision of the year to Round Rock while surrendering five runs in four innings pitched.

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