KC@OAK: Gordon collects four hits in game vs. A's

HOUSTON -- Royals left fielder Alex Gordon went 4-for-5 on Sunday at Oakland, which is about as good as it gets. The one at-bat that Gordon remembered most was his trip to the plate in the ninth inning.

With the Royals trailing by a run and one out, it would have been a perfect time for Gordon, Kansas City's hottest hitter, to ignite a rally. Instead, he struck out and the Royals fell, 4-3, in the series finale.

Since Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer followed with singles, Gordon knew if he had reached base it would have made a difference.

Gordon is hitting .441 since being moved from leadoff to the No. 3 spot in the batting order. On Monday night, he extended his hitting streak to eight games and reached base three times in five plate appearances, as the Royals dropped a 6-5 decision to the Astros.

"I'm just trying to keep things simple," he said. "Use a simple approach."

You have to be more confident going to the plate when you're on a tear like the one Gordon has been enjoying the last two weeks.

"You might not put a good swing on a pitch and it drops in," Gordon said. "You're more comfortable going up there, more settled in."

When players are on hot streaks, sometimes they can't wait for the game to start.

"Playing in the Major Leagues you should be anxious to get to the ball park every day," he said. "It's all about Ws. The four hits didn't help us win [Sunday]. There's more I needed to do. You always talk about quality plate appearances."

Gordon's single Monday night kept his average at .343.

After playing three games at Anaheim and three at Oakland, Houston is the Royals' third city on the trip.

"It's tough, especially if you've got kids at home," said Gordon, who has a 2-year-old son. "You can get frustrated on these long road trips."

Losing three straight in Oakland by one run and again on Monday in Houston can test anyone's sense of humor.

"We're playing fine," manager Ned Yost said. "We're not winning games, but we're not playing bad. We played great baseball in Anaheim and all three games in Oakland it's one hit here, one hit there. That's baseball."

Tejada starts, homers in return to Houston

KC@HOU: Tejada takes Keuchel deep in the fourth

HOUSTON -- Royals infielder Miguel Tejada returned to the starting lineup on Monday night against the Astros, starting at third base in place of the struggling Mike Moustakas.

Tejada also returned to the city where he was the starting shortstop for the Astros in 2008 and '09. He made quite a return, belting a three-run homer in the Royals' 6-5 loss.

"I have a lot of good memories here," Tejada said. "I really, really enjoyed my time here. I was sorry to leave. I'm always happy to come back."

Tejada put together two productive offensive seasons for Houston, hitting .283 in '08 and .313 with 86 RBIs in '09. But the Astros felt he lacked enough range at shortstop and released him after the '09 season.

Tejada went on to play for Baltimore, San Diego and San Francisco before signing a Minor League contract with the Royals in December.

Tejada, who turns 39 on Saturday, gradually evolved from a shortstop to a third baseman, a role player for the Royals. He made his seventh start of the season on Monday night.

Tejada's bat is still lively, hitting .333 in 27 at-bats.

"I feel I'm in good shape," he said. "I'm not playing every day. I think I can help us win, help us make the playoffs."

Doug Brocail is the only one of Tejada's former teammates with the Astros still in uniform -- and he's the pitching coach. Astros manager Bo Porter and Tejada were teammates in Oakland.

"My family will decide [when I should retire]," Tejada said. "They're my No. 1 fans. They want me to keep playing, but they want me home, too."

Tejada can still play shortstop, if needed. He pointed out that he played shortstop in winter ball this year in the Dominican Republic.

"You pick your spots to get him in there," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's been a great addition to our team. He can play anywhere [in the infield]. He played some at first base in Spring Training."

Tejada should be remembered as one of the best hitting shortstops of all time, with his .285 average -- beginning the season -- 304 home runs and 1,282 RBIs.

"I'm really proud of what I did," Tejada said.

Hochevar geared up for action in bullpen

KC@HOU: Hochevar retires Astros 1-2-3 in seventh

HOUSTON -- Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar tried to take a good attitude with him when he was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen this season.

He did not look at the switch as a demotion.

"If you walk around and mope, that's what it's going to be, a demotion," Hochevar said. "I view it as an opportunity."

Hochevar, 29, spent the last five years in the Royals' rotation. He made only one relief appearance in that time. But his 38-59 record and 5.39 ERA wasn't what the Royals were looking for from him.

"It's different," Hochevar said of the mindset required for a reliever. "You know you're coming in for three or six outs. You're not going to face guys three or four times. You don't save [any pitches]."

Hochevar has made 11 appearances this season out of the bullpen, picking up one save, with a sparkling 1.10 ERA in 16 1/3 innings. He tossed a perfect seventh inning against the Astros in Monday's 6-5 loss.

Starting pitchers are locked into a strict routine, throwing a bullpen session between starts, getting in their running, working out religiously to stay in shape.

"My routine has changed for sure," Hochevar said. "I work out every other day. Your workouts are more intense."

When you're a reliever, you could be called on to pitch almost any night.

"It's fun coming to the park knowing you might get an opportunity to pitch," Hochevar said. "Part of the routine [as a starter] you miss. Pitching out of the bullpen is fun. It's trying to get outs right away. There's no time for feeling your stuff out. Your focus is heightened out of the bullpen."

Kansas City selected Hochevar with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 Draft, the third time he had been drafted. He said that did not put any extra pressure on him to succeed right away.

"I didn't get caught up in any of that," he said.

Royals manager Ned Yost regarded Hochevar's work in the bullpen as "fine." Would he ever consider returning him to the rotation full time?

"Some day," Yost said. "But that's down the road."

"I've been a starter my whole life," Hochevar said. "That's where I see myself. It's the best case for me to help the club [coming out of the bullpen]."