A month-long funk has taken the shine off the Kansas City Royals’ strong start. Though he hasn’t dropped off nearly as much as his team has, ace Zack Greinke(notes) is battling through a slump of his own.
After struggling through his worst outing of the year, Greinke looks to recapture his early season form and help the Royals get consecutive wins for the first time in more than three weeks Thursday night in the finale of a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians.
Kansas City (25-33) was in first place in the AL Central at 18-11 after its first 29 games. With a 7-22 record in their next 29, however, the Royals are just a half-game ahead of the last-place Indians (26-35).
Kansas City’s success with Greinke (8-2, 1.55 ERA) on the mound has also fallen off. The right-hander won his first six starts, but the Royals are only 2-4 in his last six. Greinke still has the best ERA in the majors, but that figure has inflated significantly from the 0.40 mark he had through May 4.
Greinke was reached for season highs of seven runs—five earned—and nine hits in a season low-tying five innings Friday. He struck out a season-low three in the 9-3 loss at Toronto.
“They hit me real hard today,” said Greinke, whose ERA jumped by 0.45. “Whatever I threw was hit. Even the outs were hit hard. No matter what I threw, it was just hammered. I’m not used to that. I don’t remember seeing anyone get hit that hard in a long time.”
“It’s been a while,” Guillen said after the Royals posted their highest run total since a 9-1 win over Seattle on May 6. “Hopefully we learned something and will start playing real baseball again.”
Manager Trey Hillman liked what he saw as his club pulled out of last place and sent Cleveland to the division basement.
“Through this whole nightmarish stretch, the good thing is we still played hard,” Hillman said. “The results tonight were much better. We scored six of the nine with two outs. That’s always good to see.”
Now Greinke will be charged with helping Kansas City win back-to-back games for the first time since May 17 and 19. He’s 2-3 with a 2.48 ERA over his last seven starts against Cleveland, including 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA in two this year.
While the Royals are hoping to build on a strong night at the plate, the Indians hope to put a miserable one behind them. They had four hits and 12 strikeouts while getting blanked for the first time since suffering consecutive shutouts May 8 and 9.
They’ll try to bounce back behind Jeremy Sowers(notes) (1-3, 5.40). The left-hander gave up three runs in six innings of a 4-2 road loss to the Chicago White Sox on Saturday. He’s 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA in three games since getting called up from the minors May 23.
“We lost a close game,” Sowers told the Indians’ official Web site. “But hopefully next time I’ll be a little better and keep that forward momentum going.”
Sowers is 2-1 with a 3.43 ERA in four career starts against the Royals.