Having overcome an anxiety disorder that threatened his career, Zack Greinke(notes) is a man who chooses to say little. The Kansas City Royals ace instead lets his pitching speak quite loudly for him.
Looking to become the majors’ first seven-game winner - and continue his all-around domination so far in 2009 - Greinke and the Royals will meet the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night in the middle game of their weekend set.
Greinke (6-0, 0.40 ERA) is tied with Toronto’s Roy Halladay(notes) for most wins this year, but the Royals hurler is tops in baseball with two shutouts, three complete games, 54 strikeouts and he’s yet to give up a run in two road starts.
Greinke also is the third pitcher to win his first six starts with an ERA below 0.50, joining Walter Johnson (1913) and Fernando Valenzuela (1981).
“I’m not trying to jinx him, but what he’s doing is historic in nature,” teammate and fellow right-hander Brian Bannister(notes) said. “The level he’s pitching at, it kind of makes you want to sit back and grab some popcorn because it’s impressive what he’s doing.”
No Royals pitcher has begun a season 7-0 since Jose Lima(notes) in 2003. Making his first career start at Angel Stadium, Greinke is 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in four appearances - three starts - against Los Angeles.
Torii Hunter(notes) is 6 for 21 in his career against Greinke, with two homers and five RBIs. Fellow outfielder Bobby Abreu(notes) has four hits in 14 trips to the plate with a homer and four RBIs and recent call-up Reggie Willits(notes) is 4 for 5 all-time against Kansas City’s quirky pitcher.
Behind Greinke, Kansas City (18-12) has surged to the top of the AL Central but now hopes to avoid dropping the series’ first two games. Los Angeles (14-14) got a two-run inside-the-park homer from Howie Kendrick(notes) off right fielder Jose Guillen’s(notes) glove in Friday’s 4-1 victory, snapping the Royals’ six-game winning streak.
“I got under it and I just missed it,” Guillen said. “I closed the glove before the ball got there. I have no excuse. That’s a play you should make.”
A 17-game winner last season, Saunders will look to win his third consecutive start. In victories at Baltimore and Oakland, he’s given up a total of six runs - four earned - and 16 hits, but he’s walked just two over 12 2-3 innings while striking out eight.
The left-hander improved to 3-0 in Oakland and 7-2 overall against the A’s following a 5-2 victory on Monday.
“That’s the best stuff Joe’s had so far this season,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the team’s official Web site. “The fastball command was there, he had good velocity and he’s always had that good changeup.”
Saunders, who struck out a season-high seven over 6 2-3 innings his last time out, hasn’t pitched against Kansas City since Sept. 19, 2006. He gave up a run and seven hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings of the 5-2 win.
Crisp has five stolen bases in his last three games after none in his previous 11.