Sunday, January 10, 2010

Zack Greinke: Start 4 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 24, 2009  
Detroit @ Kansas City 
Royals 6, Tigers 1 / Box Score
WP: Greinke (4-0) LP: Porcello (1-2)


Zack Greinke is off to a 3-0 start and he still has not allowed an earned run. Kauffman Stadium in nearly full -- 36,363 have packed the stands. Greinke seems oblivious, saying this afterward: “I don’t know why there were so many people here today. I know it was fireworks night, and I guess there was a (Buck Night) giveaway.”

The truth is, there’s a murmur in the crowd, and in Kansas City. People are beginning to wonder if this might be the beginning of something special for Greinke. He has just been named the co-American League Player of the Week. He enters this game with a 34 consecutive scoreless innings streak. Will it continue?

The wind is blasting out of Kauffman Stadium to left field, gusting as high as 38-40 mph as the game begins. The temperature is 79 degrees – much warmer than Greinke’s last start at home on April 13 when the game time temperature was 43 degrees.

[ Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Zack Greinke (23) throws in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers on Friday, April 24, 2009, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT) Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom / Content © 2010 Newscom All rights reserved.]
Curtis Granderson leads off the game for Detroit. Greinke works him inside, then outside. When the counts gets to 2-2, Granderson fouls a couple of pitches off and then Greinke throws a change up that fools Granderson, who swings and misses for Greinke’s first strike out of the game. Placido Polanco singles up the middle. Up comes Magglio Ordonez who has a career batting average against Greinke of just .148. He reaches for an off speed pitch and pops up meekly to Alberto Callaspo at send base. Greinke throws a fastball on the outside of the plate at the knees to Miguel Cabrera for strike one and then gets him to hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

In the bottom of the first, Coco Crisp reaches on an infield single and two hitters later, Mark Teahen comes to the plate. Denny Matthews says, “If Teahen can get a hit, Coco Crisp can score – that figures to be enough runs for Greinke.” On cue, Teahen gets a 1-1 pitch to his liking and he launches it to left field. With the wind blowing out to left, it’s a no-doubter. Gone. The Royals lead 2-0. 

In the top of the second inning, Greinke gets ahead of Carlos Guillen 0-2. Two pitches later Greinke buries an off speed pitch that Guillen swings and misses. Strike out number two for Greinke. Gerald Laird singles to right field. Then Greinke walks Brandon Inge. A hit will end Greinke’s streak. But he gets Josh Anderson to ground into a 4-6-3 double play and the threat is over.

Alberto Callaspo leads off the bottom of the second and hits a 1-0 fly ball to right field. Ordonez moves back to make the catch, but the ball keeps carrying. The wind, even though it is mostly blowing to left field, pushes the ball over the fence and the Royals lead 3-0. It is Callaspo’s first Major League home run. He had 441 previous at bats at the big league level without a home run.

In the third inning, Greinke gets Ramon Santiago to hit a little flare to right center field. Mitch Maier slides and makes a nice catch. The crowd cheers. Granderson flies out to left field. And Polanco lines out to third. It’s a 9-pitch inning for Greinke and his first without allowing a hit. The streak has reached 37.

The Royals go in order quickly to end the third.

Greinke falls behind Ordonez in the fourth inning but he gets him to hit a comebacker to the mound. Greinke is settled in. His fastball has more zip that usual. He throws a 97 mph fastball to Cabrera with the count 1-2 and he misses with it, but you don’t get the feeling that he’s overthrowing. His fastball is just has a little extra on it tonight. He strikes out Cabrera swinging for his third strikeout of the evening. Guillen flies out to center and Greinke’s streak has reached 38 innings.

The Royals go in order in the fourth.

Laird falls behind Greinke 1-2 in the fifth, but Greinke hangs an off speed pitch and Laird drives the ball down the left field line. DeJesus plays the ball well, sliding to cut it off and he comes up throwing. It’s close at second, but Laird beats the throw. Greinke doesn’t seem phased. He throws two strikes to Inge that Inge just watches. A couple of pitches later, Greinke comes at him with a fastball up and away and Inge doesn’t have a chance as he swings and misses to become Greinke’s fourth strikeout victim. Greinke begins to work a little slower now and falls behind Josh Anderson 3-0. Miguel Olivo goes out to talk to Greinke. He eventually gets Anderson to line out to center for the second out of the inning. Laird moves up to third, but the throw from Aviles (the cut off man) hits Laird as he slides into third and gets away from Teahen. Greinke is backing up the play. He retrieves the ball and fires home, Laird is safe at home.

“It happens, that’s baseball,” Greinke says afterward. “It’s aggressive baserunning, aggressive fielding and it’s just baseball. You can’t predict anything. I got out of jams I shouldn’t have got out of, and then they score on a ball that maybe they shouldn’t have scored on. It evens out at the end.”

The streak ends at 38 innings.

Royals fans begin to applaud – quietly at first, then they begin to roar – to acknowledge Greinke’s streak. Greinke gets out of the inning on the next pitch. Now the real work begins. How will Greinke respond after giving up a run? It’s not an earned run, but it’s still a run and the Tigers are a bloop and blast from tying the game.

Not for long though.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, with Olivo on second base and Maier on first, Rick Porcello uncorks a wild pitch – his second of the inning – and the Royals have runners at second and third with one out. The Tigers bring their infield in. Crisp his a ground the ball to Cabrera at first base who makes a poor throw home, allowing Olivo and Maier to score. The Royals lead 5-1.

Greinke mows the Tigers down in the sixth inning in nine pitches.

The Royals get a man on in the sixth when Billy Butler draws a four-pitch walk, but they don’t score.

In the top of the seventh, Greinke strikes out Cabrera and Guillen swinging. He’s still throwing hard, 94 mph, and his control is getting better. He gets ahead of Laird 0-2 and Laird tries to lay down a bunt, but Olivo makes a nice grab in foul territory and the inning is over.

The Royals score a run in the seventh inning and increase their lead to 6-1. The Tigers don’t really stand much of a chance at this point. Greinke seems to be hitting his stride.

In the top of the eighth, Matthews begins to talk about Greinke saying he is “one of those streaks” that make you think about Don Drysdale and Orel Hershiser. And the way he’s completely overmatching big league lineups he says it makes you think of Tom Seaver, Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Matthews says. “I’m not comparing Greinke to any of those guys –  not yet – this is only his fourth start, but he is in one of those streaks that would be mindful of that type of pitching. He’s always had excellent stuff, and to a degree, he’s always had good command, but now it’s almost perfect. He has great confidence, he has a great feel for pitching, and he has everything going his way.”

Greinke strikes out Inge swinging as Matthews is talking. Then he strikes out Anderson and Santiago. Inning over.

The Royals get a runner on base in the eighth, but are unable to score.

Coming into the ninth, Greinke has retired 12 straight and he’s struck out five of the last six hitters he’s faced. Greinke picks up his tenth strikeout of the game to start the inning when he gets Granderson swinging. He jumps ahead of Polanco 0-2 before getting him to hit a little dinker out in front of the plate. Greinke throws him out for out number two. The crowd begins to chant “Let’s go Royals!” Greinke makes quick work of Ordonez, getting him to ground out to Butler at first and the game is over.

In four starts, Greinke still hasn’t given up an earned run. After the game, Royals fans could be heard shouting “Cy Young” and it doesn’t sound crazy. He has 29 starts to go, but this doesn’t look like a fluke. It doesn’t feel like a fluke. In fact, it prompts Bob Dutton to lead his article in the Star by asking this question: “Is this the night, after more than a generation, that baseball truly became relevant again in Kansas City? Maybe. Just maybe.”

What Greinke said:
“There was a real atmosphere here today,” Greinke said. “There probably couldn’t have been a better night.”
What players/managers said:
“He’s got such good stuff,” Tigers catcher Gerald Laird said. “You could tell the last couple of innings he kind of just turned it on. He sniffed that complete game, and that’s what the good ones do.”
“It’s fun to watch,” third baseman Mark Teahen said. “Tonight, more than anything — maybe it was just the energy or whatever — but he looked unhittable.”
What bloggers said:
“ … but the bigger story isn't whether or not Greinke should be a bigger story, but the mere baseball side of it. And the baseball side of it is pretty simple: Greinke is one of the best starters in baseball right now, so we can stop waiting for him to arrive. He's here.” (Royals Review)
“So, after four starts, his ERA sits at 0.00. After four starts, he has struck out 36 in 29 innings of work. His WHIP, if my calculations are correct, is 0.86. He is 4-0. And in this young season, he is the early front-runner for the AL Cy Young.” (Royalscentricity)

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