Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 4/13/12
You know what? Someday, you'll look back on Friday and laugh. Or cry. That's the trouble with Opening Day. It's a holiday of hindsight. "No, obviously not the way we wanted to open up at home for our fans," Royals manager Ned Yost said after an 8-3 loss to Cleveland at Kauffman Stadium. "Just got away from us quick." Monet couldn't have painted a sweeter backdrop: Day game, blue skies, balloons, military flyovers, a parade of franchise legends, Richard Karn, and the first sellout at the K since its renovation. After a 3-3 west-coast swing to open the season and a slumping Indians lineup next on the docket, there was a buzz in the air. The setting was perfect. The Local Nine, alas, were not. New center fielder Jarrod Dyson misplayed a ball at the warning track. Balls to the right side of the infield often seemed to squib a few inches past the outstretched glove of Yuniesky Betancourt. Luke Hochevar surrendered seven runs on eight hits in the top of the first. In the top of the fourth, he was drilled in the left ankle by a wicked line drive off the bat of Cleveland slugger Carlos Santana. "I don't think much was going through my mind other than taking the pain away," said Hochevar, who surrendered nine hits over four innings and greeted reporters in the home locker room wearing a protective boot on his sore ankle. "That's as solid as I've ever been hit. I could hear that go through my body. That ball was smoked and it hit me solid. I mean, it dropped me like I got shot." "I think it hit his ankle louder than it came off the bat," third baseman Mike Moustakas would say later. "As a teammate, you kind of cringe a little bit and just hope that it wasn't as bad as it looked." It looked awful. As the ball caromed to first base for the out, the lanky Colorado native had collapsed in a heap on the mound, writhing in pain for a few minutes. The Royals trailed 7-1 at the time. The silence was deafening. First Salvador Perez. Then Joakim Soria. Then Lorenzo Cain. Now this? What did Yost ever do to get on the wrong side of the baseball gods? "When a guy like Hoch is down for a while, you know it's something serious," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "And you know, it's just the way this game goes sometimes. Every team faces adversity and ours is happening at the beginning. But this team bounces back well. We'll come back (Saturday) and do what we can to get a win." That's the other trouble with Opening Day everyone gets a bit too clingy to that first impression. Since 2008, the Royals are 1-4 in home openers. Point of reference: So are the St. Louis Cardinals. It's early. Opening Day is sound and fury, signifying nothing. "We feel like we haven't played our best baseball yet," Hosmer continued. "No one's hitting the panic button over here. Just bounce back (Saturday), see what happens." Still, this is a fan base in a fragile place, teetering periously between between hope and doubt. Expectations are real, which is good. But expectations are a doubled-edged sword. When a team finally wins your trust, the flip side of a bad day at the office and there were plenty to go around Friday is a lingering sense of disappointment. Or, worse, dj vu. "It felt like they hit everything that I threw in the first inning," said Hochevar, whose ERA climbed from 2.84 to 7.84. "Which they did. They hit back-door cutters. They hit cutters in. They hit four-seamers in. They hit change-ups. They hit everything, whether it was executed or not." Hochevar tipped his cap to Cleveland's first-ball-hitting approach while questioning his game plan at the outset. But to his credit, he changed things up after that. After surrendering eight hits to the first 11 hitters he faced, Hochevar retired eight of his next nine. He was settling in nicely until Santana's laser sent him reeling. "It got me square on the inside part of the ankle," he recalled. "But I'm going to do everything I can to keep the pain at a minimum and try to get back off the mound again shortly." Initial X-rays were negative; officially, it's a left medial ankle contusion, a nasty bruise. He's day-to-day. Yost said he wants to see how the kid looks in a few days before he decides whether or not the he'll make his next scheduled start. If not, there are contingency options: Left-hander Everett Teaford whet a few appetites with four innings of scoreless mop-up work. "Hoch is a competitor, so he wanted to stay out there," Moustakas said. "He couldn't walk, but you know, he's just competitive, didn't want anybody to help him off the field. Wanted to (pitch), and the guy, he just couldn't walk." It didn't seem much better after the game, either. As he greeted reporters, Hochevar struggled to stand. He seemed in obvious discomfort as he took a few questions from the media before a Royals official cut things off. The last query was a keeper, though, when a reporter asked: Do you think it's preferable to get a major bruise on the foot you push off with (the right), or the one you land with (the left)? Hochevar pondered this for a second. "Umm," he finally replied, "I'd rather it be on neither of them." One down. Eighty more to go. You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com
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