Friday, January 01, 2010

Zack Greinke: Start 1 of 33 in 2009

In 2009, Royals fans didn’t have a lot to cheer about with the exception of every fifth day when Zack Greinke took the mound. He had a magical season which culminated with him winning the American League Cy Young award. Royal Reflections will be reliving all 33 starts of Greinke’s 2009 starts in addition to his All-Star game appearance as we head into Spring Training 2010.

Game Date: April 8, 2009  
Kansas City @ Chicago
Royals 2, White Sox 0 / Box Score
WP: Greinke (1-0) LP: Floyd (0-1), SV: Soria (1)


Zack Greinke had never won a game at U.S. Cellular Field going into this one. He was 0-6.

That was about to change.

He threw 17 pitches in the first inning, but he sat the Sox down in order. Afterward, Greinke said he was trying to be too fine – too perfect and that ran up his pitch count. He couldn’t possibly have known that as the season progressed, hitting the corners was going to become routine.

Dewayne Wise led off the bottom of the first with a ground out to first base. Two hitters later, Carlos Quentin became the first of Greinke’s 242 strikeout victims in 2009.

Greinke walked Jim Thome to lead off the second inning and then he fell behind Jermaine Dye, who singled to right on a 3-1 pitch, moving Thome to second base. You have to wonder how Greinke’s season might have turned out if Paul Konerko had blasted a three-run home run at that point. Would it have damaged Greinke’s confidence to the point that he just didn’t trust his stuff? We’ll never know because Greinke got Konerko to ground into a 6-4-3 double play and then he got A.J. Pierzynski to ground out to end the inning.

In the top of the third inning, Mike Aviles doubled with two outs and Coco Crisp followed him with a ground rule double to right field, giving the Royals a 1-0 lead.

That seemed to settle Greinke down and he came out throwing strikes in the bottom of the third. He got ahead of Alexei Ramirez 0-2 before striking him out. He got ahead of Josh Fields 0-2, but then walked him. He got ahead of Wise before getting him to pop out. And he got ahead of Chris Getz before Fields was thrown out at second trying to steal.

Greinke got ahead of the first two hitters in the fourth inning, but then he hit Quentin. Dick Kaegel recorded it this way: “There was one disquieting moment when, after Carlos Quentin absorbed a Greinke pitch on his back, he made a step toward the pitcher but was quickly diverted toward first base. Greinke thought Quentin’s reaction was probably residue from a wayward pitch over the batter back in the first inning.”

Maybe Greinke’s quest for perfection was causing him to be wild. Maybe he was wild and covered it by saying he was trying to be too fine. I tend to believe what he says though because he tends to say whatever is on his mind.

Whatever the case, he came back strong to strike out Thome and Dye to end the inning after hitting Quentin.

The Royals struck again in the top of the fifth inning. Aviles was in the middle of it again. He led off the inning with a single and he took second on a wild pitch. Crisp sacrificed him over to third and two hitters later, Mark Teahen singled him in to give the Royals a 2-0 lead.

Somehow, Greinke found his control in the fifth inning. He did give up a single to Pierzynski, the second hit of the game for the Sox, but Greinke got the next two hitters.

In the sixth inning, Greinke was fatigued. He struck out Wise to begin the inning but he fell behind the next two hitters, walking one of them and setting the stage for the possibility of Thome tying the game with a two-run home run. Again, you have to wonder if the 2009 season would have looked different for Greinke if Thome had taken him deep. But it didn’t happen. Greinke got him to line out on a 3-2 pitch to second base.

Trey Hillman let Greinke start the seventh inning. Greinke had thrown 93 pitches at that point. Dye led off the inning and got ahead 1-0. He singled the next pitch into center field and Hillman removed Greinke – justifiably so.

Greinke went on to get the W and removed the monkey off his back at U.S. Cellular. Not a bad way to begin his season.  

What Greinke said:
“I treated every batter like I didn’t want him to get a hit on me, maybe was a little too fine,” Greinke said. “I didn’t give in one pitch the whole game. If I threw a fastball, I wanted it to be right on the corner, knee high – or inside corner, waist to stomach high. I was trying to make the perfect pitch too much.”
What players/managers said:
“He was pretty darn good. I mean 95 [mph], just painting, inside, outside, up and down,” Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “He had a good slider, a good curveball. That’s what he can do. We’ve seen him like that before and he’s tough. You have to match him pitch for pitch and Gavin tried.”
What other people said:
“Greinke fooled future Hall of Famer Jim Thome so badly on a slider that Thome was halfway to the dugout by the time home plate umpire Bill Hohn lifted his arm to signal strike three,” Joe Posnanski said. “Greinke got Jermaine Dye to miss a curveball by three blocks. Greinke threw the nastiest slider you ever saw to Chicago leadoff man Dewayne Wise, and Wise was able to just barely tick it with his bat. So Greinke threw another one that was 3 percent nastier, and Wise swung and missed and struck out, too. Untouchable. That’s all.”
What bloggers said:
“I don’t know how anyone ever gets a hit off of Zack Greinke, who was brilliant tonight. Greinke allowed just three hits, to go with three walks and seven strikeouts.” (Royals Review)
“When it was all said and done, Greinke had pitched six innings and allowed just 3 hits, 3 walks, a hit batter and struck out seven White Sox and, of course, allowed zero runs. I know Zack didn’t have his good control and, personally, I don’t really think he had great stuff.   What’s that tell you about the capabilities and the maturity of Zack Greinke?” (Royals Authority)

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