Thursday, January 07, 2010

Zack Greinke: Start 3 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 18, 2009  
Kansas City @ Texas 
Royals 2, Rangers 0 / Box Score
WP: Greinke (3-0) LP: Millwood (1-1)


It’s Josh Hamilton Jersey Night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  After the game, Jack Ingram will perform in concert. More than 37,000 people have shown up for the game that pits Kevin Millwood against Zack Greinke. The temperature is 73 degrees at game time. The stage is set for Ranger fans to enjoy what they are hoping is win.

Greinke enters the game with a 25 consecutive scoreless innings streak. He is 2-3 against the Rangers in his career with a 3.51 ERA in nine appearances, seven of which were starts. His control hasn’t been the greatest in his first two starts of the season. Will this be the night he finds it?

The Royals go down in order in the first inning.

Greinke comes out in the first throwing strikes, getting ahead of Ian Kinsler before he flies out to center. He gets ahead of Michael Young 1-2 before getting him to hit a ball back to mound. He gets ahead of Josh Hamilton 1-2 before striking him out swinging on a breaking pitch.

This doesn’t look like the Greinke we’ve seen so far this year. He’s been good, but not like this. In the first inning, he throws 10 pitches; 8 of are strikes.

The Royals get something going in the second inning. Billy Butler and Mark Teahen draw four pitch walks. Mike Jacobs flies out to right field and Alberto Callaspo singles to center, but Butler can’t score. Miguel Olivo comes up with a chance to do some damage, but he goes after the first pitch and flies out to center. Willie Bloomquist grounds out to end the inning and the threat is over.

Hank Blalock leads off the second inning against Greinke. Greinke throws an off speed pitch for strike one looking. Then he throws a 91 mph that Blalock fouls back. On the 0-2 pitch, Blalock sends a shot to right center. Coco Crisp dives, gets some leather on the ball and it squirts out of his glove. Blalock pulls up at third with a triple.

So long consecutive scoreless streak, right?

Not so fast.

Greinke gets Marlon Byrd to ground out to Mark Teahen at third base. He falls behind Nelson Cruz 3-0. The next pitch is a fastball at the knees that Cruz watches for a strike. The 3-1 pitch is 93 mph fastball that Cruz swings and misses. Greinke deals and strikes out Cruz swinging. Next up, Chris Davis. Greinke throws a 94 mph fastball that Davis fouls off. After Greinke missing with a fastball, Davis fouls off an off speed pitch.

Greinke brings the 1-2 pitch home and Davis swings and misses. Miguel Olivo drops the ball, but picks it up and tosses it to Billy Butler at first base. Inning, and threat, over. The streak continues.

Millwood keeps the Royals scoreless in the third inning.

Greinke enters the third after throwing 25 pitches in the first two innings. Jarrod Saltalamacchia leads off the inning and he takes the first pitch high for a ball. He lines the next pitch into the gap in right center field for a double. Elvis Andrus, the number nine hitter, lays down a sacrifice bunt and moves Saltalamacchia to third. Up comes Ian Kinsler with a chance to give the Rangers a lead. Kinsler is red hot, 12-for-20 on the home stand. Greinke gets ahead of him 0-2. Kinsler takes a ball and then fouls off two pitches. Greinke goes down and away to Kinsler, who tries to check his swing, but he’s rung up for the strikeout. Michael Young grounds out to second and Greinke is out of the inning.

The Royals go down in order in the fourth.

Josh Hamilton leads off the fourth inning. Greinke gets ahead of him 0-2 and then drops a 60 mph curve ball on him. It’s outside. Hamilton doesn’t bite. I used to get nervous when Greinke started tossing 60 mph curve balls toward the plate because he often did it just to look cool. But you start to get the feeling that there’s purpose behind it now. Greinke throws Hamilton an 84 mph slider and Hamilton swings and misses for Greinke’s fifth strike out of the game. There’s the purpose. Blalock singles to right, but Greinke comes back and strikes out Byrd. Going back in the Twitter archives, I described it this way: “Greinke set up Marlon Byrd and struck him out looking with a 3-2 93 mph fastball on the outside corner.” Ranger fans boo the call and you can understand their frustration. Cruz comes up and grounds into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

The consecutive scoreless inning streak stands at 29, and counting.

The Royals make a little noise in the fifth inning after Callaspo singles to lead off, but nothing comes of it.

In the bottom of the fifth, Davis hits a little comebacker to the mound. Greinke handles it. Saltalamacchia falls behind Greinke 1-2 and then strikes out swinging on a curve ball in the dirt – Greinke’s seventh strikeout of the game. Andrus singles to center on the first pitch. Kinsler is up with two outs and a runner on first. Greinke throws over to first a couple of times and fans boo again. Finally, Greinke throws a 2-2, 93 mph fastball to Kinsler who swings and misses for Greinke’s eight strikeout.

To the sixth inning we go, locked in an old fashioned pitcher’s duel.

Crisp walks to lead off the inning. Three hitters later, Billy Butler drills a 2-0, two-out pitch down the left field line to drive in Crisp. It’s Butler’s birthday, but he’s the one delivering gifts. The Royals lead 1-0.

Young singles to lead off the inning for Texas. Hamilton flies out to center on the first pitch, Blalock flies out to left on the second pitch and Byrd pops out to second on the first pitch. It’s a five pitch inning for Greinke.

Olivo goes deep in the seventh inning – a line drive that barely clears the left field wall. It’s his first home run and RBI of the season. The Royals lead 2-0.

Greinke takes the mound for the seventh inning, his confidence apparently getting a boost from the combination of his repeated ability to work around base runners and the 2-0 lead the Royals have given him. He starts the inning by throwing a 66 mph curve for a called strike to Cruz. Then he tosses a 61 mph curve that Cruz flails at and misses. At this point, Cruz must be hoping to just make contact. He does, a foul ball down the right field line that Mitch Maier, who just entered the game to start the inning, catches for an out. Davis comes up and Greinke begins to pump up the velocity – going 94 mph on one fastball and then throwing a slider. He gets Davis to swing and miss a fastball for his ninth strikeout. Saltalamacchia grounds out to end the inning.

This feels like a turning point in the game. Greinke is in complete control, doing anything he wants to do. The only question now seems to be whether he’ll get the complete game shutout.
The Royals go down in order in the eighth inning.

Greinke gets Andrus to ground out in the bottom of the eighth. Kinsler singles and Hillman makes a call to the bullpen to get Joakim Soria up – justifiably so – because Hamilton is due up in two hitters. Soria begins to get loose as Greinke faces Young. Young crushes a hooking line drive to left field and DeJesus squeezes it for out number two. Greinke goes high with ball one to Hamilton. He fools Hamilton on the second pitch and Hamilton swings and misses. On the third pitch of the AB, Hamilton lifts a fly to center and the inning is over.

The Royals go down in order in the ninth inning.

Will Hillman send Greinke out? He’s at 96 pitches (66 strikes). On Twitter, I make the rather astute observation, “Soria looks like he’s staying put.”

And here comes Greinke.

Greinke gets ahead of Blalock 0-2 before getting him to ground out to second. He gets Byrd to hit a comebacker to the mound. Two outs. Nelson Cruz comes to the plate and after falling behind 1-2, he singles to left. Greinke has thrown 106 pitches at this point, but his velocity is still good. Soria is warm. Hillman walks out of the dugout and meets with Greinke and the infielders at the mound. Greinke apparently convinces Hillman that he has something for Davis. Greinke gets ahead of him 1-2. During the AB, Cruz moves to second base on fielder’s indifference.

“Let’s go Dav-is,” the crowd begins to chant repeatedly.

Andruw Jones comes out on deck to possibly pinch hit for Saltalamacchia if Davis reaches.

Greinke uncorks a wild pitch to Davis and Cruz moves up to third base. Greinke gets a new ball and begins to rub it.

He fires the 2-2 pitch, a called strike, and the game is over.

Greinke completes the shutout; the first of his career, and he runs his consecutive scoreless inning streak to 34.

What Greinke said:
“That kind of blew me away,” Greinke said when someone told him about Orel Hershiser’s record 59-inning scoreless streak after the game. “It’s just about impossible to get to 34 nowadays. Fifty-nine, that’s impossible. I would have been happy with 20.”
What players/managers said:
“It was tough. It was one of those nights,” Kevin Millwood said. “You’ve just got to tip your hat to him.”
What other people said:
“Is there any better pitcher right now than Zack Greinke?” Bob Dutton said to lead the story he filed for the game. “Anyone? Anywhere? How much better could anyone be than Greinke on Saturday night against the Texas Rangers?”
“The answer is no,” said someone who left a comment on the story. “There is no one better right now and after two decades, MLB has returned to KC.”
What bloggers said:
“The pro writers will have an eloquent way of saying this in their reports … ‘Greinke was friggin awesome!’ I mean what else needs to be said really? He dominated the game totally – we looked mostly stupid at the plate.” (
“And as much as I mock Trey I do have to give him some props for letting Greinke go the distance. I’m sure somewhere somebody was screaming about his pitch count and how Soria was fresh but you know what sometimes you got to let a guy finish his masterpiece.” (Royally Speaking)

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