KANSAS CITY -- This wasn't how it was supposed to begin. Not on Opening Day at home, with ceremonial pomp, high spirits, flags waving, sun shining, the stands filled and optimism oozing.
Yet, without warning, the Cleveland Indians bushwhacked Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar for seven runs in the first inning on Friday and had the blue-hued crowd viewing what became an 8-3 defeat for the Royals.
"It's like we started behind the 8-ball," said the Royals' Billy Butler.
Well, the 7-ball, at least.
Things got worse for Hochevar in the fourth inning. He went down in a painful heap when Carlos Santana's shot crashed into his left ankle. After being helped off the field, Hochevar underwent X-rays, which were negative, and the verdict was a left medial contusion or bruise.
"It's not the way we want to open up at home for our fans," manager Ned Yost said. "It just got away from us quick."
Did it ever. The 40,230 fans at sold-out Kauffman Stadium were still savoring the pregame ceremonies when the Indians cooled their ardor. Right off the bat, so to speak, there was Michael Brantley's single, Asdrubal Cabrera's double to right and Shin-Soo Choo's two-run single that got through the infield's right side.
Hochevar attempted to restore order with two quick outs but the Tribe wouldn't quit. Shelley Duncan's check-swing single scored the third run, Casey Kotchman singled and Jason Kipnis hit a high fly into the cross wind that blew from right field toward left. Jarrod Dyson, the center fielder just up from Omaha, retreated and twisted and turned to no avail. Dyson wasn't in catching range when Kipnis' fly ball when it fell for a two-run triple.
"The ball just got up in the jet stream. There are no excuses," Yost said.
"I've got to have that ball," Dyson said. "It's a tough play, but if I hustle myself back there in time to turn around and find the ball, I make that play. So put the blame on me for that one. ... I just made it harder than what it was."
This occasioned some booing from the folks in blue, and that got to be a habit as the Indians' Jack Hannahan singled and Brantley doubled, each for a run and for a 7-0 lead. Finally, as the 11th batsman hit an easy popup for the third out, a hearty cheer arose from the unamused multitude.
"That can't happen in the first inning," Hochevar said. "Our game plan needs to switch earlier."
What was the plan?
"Obviously to establish the fastball and establish their inner half," Hochevar said. "And they came out turnin' and burnin'."
To the tune of eight hits -- three of them for extra bases. He threw 34 pitches in the inning.
"Hoch just struggled in the first inning to command the baseball," Yost said. "I don't know if he was too amped or too excited. He just really struggled to execute his pitches. He fell into a hole, 7-0, and that's a big hole to climb out of."
For a few moments, though, the crowd had its hopes up. The Royals began their first inning against right-hander Derek Lowe with three straight singles by Dyson, Jeff Francoeur and Eric Hosmer, producing a run.
But Butler rapped into a double play and Alex Gordon looked at a called third strike. After that, the Royals' only excitement was a two-run fourth that included doubles by Butler and Mike Moustakas.
Lowe lasted until there were two outs in the seventh and got the victory.
"It's pretty easy to pitch when you get spotted seven in the top of the first," Butler said. "He's a contact pitcher, sinkerballer. What'd we hit into -- five double plays, maybe? We had chances, just didn't get it done. It's hard to come back after being down seven in the first."
There were just three double plays, but Lowe got 12 outs on ground balls.
Hochevar's outing came to a painful ended with the final out of the Indians' fourth, when Santana's drive hit his ankle so hard the ball ricocheted over to Hosmer, who stepped on first base for the out. Hochevar had to be helped from the field. He was replaced by left-hander Everett Teaford, who'd started warming up during the Indians' first-inning uprising.
"First inning, I got up and he got out of it, and when he took that ball off the ankle, it's time to earn my paycheck, I guess," Teaford said.
Teaford, appearing in his first game this season, proceeded to pitch four shutout innings and put himself in the picture if Hochevar is not ready for his next start.
So Hochevar limped away from the home opener and -- at least symbolically -- so did all of the Royals.
"You don't picture your day going that way," Butler said. "You feel like with the crowd that we had, you'd have the momentum, you'd have the upper hand but the way that game started out, it took the air out of us, and we never could quite recover."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.