Monday, January 04, 2010

Zack Greinke: Start 2 of 33 in 2009

Royal Reflections is reliving all 33 of Zack Greinke’s 2009 starts in addition to his All-Star game appearance as we head into Spring Training 2010.

Game Date: April 13, 2009  
Cleveland @ Kansas City
Royals 4, Indians 2 / Box Score
WP: Greinke (2-0) LP: Carmona (0-2), SV: Soria (4)


Entering the game, Zack Greinke had a streak of 20 scoreless innings that stretched back to the end of the 2008 season. He pitched well in his first start of 2009, but his control wasn’t great. Would his scoreless innings streak finally come to an end?

The temperature was 43 degrees at game time, making it one of those typical April games in Kauffman Stadium in which you better have a coat and some hot chocolate to sip on.

Greinke took the mound and struck out Grady Sizemore to begin the game. Shin-Soo Choo followed with a double to right field, bringing up the heart of the order for the Indians in Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and Jhonny Peralta. Martinez reached on an infield single to first, but Greinke struck out Hafner on four pitches and Tony Pena Jr., who was playing shortstop, made a great play up the middle and threw out Peralta to end the inning.

In the Royals’ half of the first inning, Coco Crisp drew a walk and two hitters later, David DeJesus drew one as well. That set the stage for an offensive explosion. Mark Teahen singled in Crisp on a 1-2 pitch to give the Royals a 1-0 lead. Billy Butler followed him with an RBI double to deep center. And a couple of hitters later, Alberto Callaspo singled in Teahen to give the Royals a 3-0 lead.

Greinke battled his control in the second inning, but he was able to sit down the Indians in order, picking up two more strike outs.

Craig Brown at Royals Authority chronicled the events of the third inning quite well in a post titled Gritty Greinke:
He walked Asdrubal Cabrera on seven pitches and then followed by walking Grady Sizemore on five pitches. In the at bat with Cabrera, he started him away with a strike on the outside corner and then came back inside, missing on three consecutive pitches. He lost him on a curveball that was borderline. With Sizemore, he missed on all four fastballs he threw, and all were up in the zone.
Greinke then struck out Shin-Soo Choo in a seven pitch at bat and gave up a single to Victor Martinez which loaded the bases. Four hitters into the inning, he had thrown 24 pitches and retired just a single hitter. He was in some serious hot water.
Perhaps frustrated with the fastball, Greinke went exclusively off speed. Of his eight pitches he threw to Travis Hafner and Jhonny Peralta, Greinke delivered six sliders and two curves. The result?  Two strikeouts. That’s pure Greinke. Unhappy with the fastball and in trouble? Screw it … Let’s go to the off speed. As a hitter, it has to play with their heads. “He can’t possibly throw me a fifth straight off-speed pitch, can he?”
Uhhh, yes. Yes, he can.
Back to the fastball in the fourth, and Greinke once again fell behind 3-1 to the leadoff man Ryan Garko before he ripped a fastball for a single to right. It was just that kind of night. Greinke struggled with command, yet was dominating at times.

“I don’t know how many times I’m going to be able to continue doing that,” Greinke said after the game. “The last two games, I’ve done well with people on base. Hopefully, it continues.”

Greinke fell behind Garko 3-1 to begin the fourth inning before Garko singled to right. Tony Graffanino followed with a a line drive to Mark Teahen in right that Teahen caught. A couple of hitters later, with two outs, Cabrera doubled to right field. Garko stopped at third.

Would this be the inning Greinke’s scoreless streak ended?


Greinke struck out Sizemore to end the inning. Unfortunately, partially do to his control problems and partially do to his high number of strikeouts, Greinke’s had already thrown 84 pitches.

The Royals tacked on a run in the bottom of the fourth inning when Mike Jacobs hit his first home run in a Royals uniform.

Greinke struggled again in the fifth. Victor Martinez singled on a 1-2 pitch with one out. Greinke got ahead of Hafner, who came up next, but then he missed with three successive pitches before finally striking him out. He fell behind Peralta 3-1 before getting him to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

Hillman didn’t have much of a choice but to take Greinke out at the at point. He’d thrown 104 pitches and surely Hillman was wondering if Greinke’s ability to wiggle off the hook had been tested to the limit on that particular day.

Jeff Parker, from Royally Speaking, made this comment on Twitter: “It was really cold, that affected both Greinke and Carmona. Zack didn’t have his usual control which helped up his pitch count.”

The Royals’ bullpen gave up a couple of runs in the ninth, but Soria shut the door on the Indians to keep Greinke’s win intact.

Greinke extended his scoreless innings streak to 25, causing anticipation to build for this third start of the year, scheduled for April 18 at Texas.

What Greinke said:
“In the first inning, Tony [Pena Jr.] made an amazing play,” Greinke said. “Soon as it got by me, I knew it was gone. I was just real mad, but somehow he made the play. I don’t know how many times I can continue doing that, but the last two games I’ve been doing good with men on base. You’ve got to take the two wins, no matter how it happens. That’s as good as it can get.”
What players/managers said:
“You can’t say enough about what he did when he had to with runners on base,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “That’s when he was at his best. That’s what guys with his kind of stuff and his ability can do on occasion. Thankfully, he was able to do it in several innings.”
What other people said:
“We squandered too many opportunities,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “Greinke is a good young pitcher. We’ve seen him mature in the last couple of years.”  
What bloggers said:
“Greinke was weirdly ineffective, yet never really in serious trouble. (Well, he did load the bases against the heart of the Cleveland order, but it never felt in doubt.) Two or three years ago, he hangs a couple pitches and doesn’t strike out as many guys, and allows four earned runs in the process. Didn’t happen tonight.” (Royals Review)
“Greinke didn’t have his best stuff and still managed 5.0 innings of shutout baseball. He allowed 6 hits, 2 walks and struck out 9 hitters. He was in and out of trouble most of the game, but always made critical pitches in critical situations.  This is the kind of game that proves Zack is ascending to one of the game’s elite starting pitchers.” (Kings of Kauffman)

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