Zack Greinke(notes) and Scott Kazmir(notes) were selected nine picks apart in the first round of the 2002 draft out of high school, and after first making it to the major leagues two years later, both have enjoyed impressive spurts of success.
This season, however, Greinke’s been the only one having fun.
Greinke will try to help his Kansas City Royals bounce back after blowing a lead to the visiting Tampa Bay Rays in their series opener, while the struggling Kazmir will look to put his first half behind him beginning Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Kazmir, the 15th pick in 2002, enjoyed more success than Greinke during his first five seasons, posting a 3.51 ERA from 2005-2008 while making two All-Star games and becoming one of baseball’s premier strikeout pitchers.
His 2009 season hasn’t gone as well. Kazmir (4-5, 7.11 ERA) hasn’t won since May 9, battling control problems and missing most of June with a strained quad. After two decent starts upon returning June 27, he gave up seven runs and nine hits over 6 1-3 innings against Toronto on July 8, a game Tampa Bay (49-41) rallied to win 10-9.
“I’m confident in what I’m putting out there,” Kazmir told the Rays’ official Web site. “It’s very, very frustrating. But I’m feeling like I’m going to start catching some breaks.”
Depression and anxiety issues seemed to send Greinke’s promising career into a tailspin during his first few seasons in the majors, but the right-hander bounced back with 13 wins and a 3.47 ERA in 2008.
This season, the sixth pick of the 2002 draft has been even better. Greinke has been arguably the game’s best pitcher, with a 2.12 ERA that’s tops in the AL. Fifteen of his 18 outings have been quality starts.
Greinke, who pitched a scoreless fourth inning in his first All-Star appearance Tuesday in St. Louis, will be trying to end a personal two-game losing streak. He gave up three runs and seven hits in Detroit on July 8, and lost 3-1 despite striking out nine.
“There’s just confidence when he takes the mound because of the start he got off to,” manager Trey Hillman told the Royals’ official Web site. “He’s had some losses, some days where he hasn’t commanded the ball as well as he did early on. But he’s been so durable and chewed up so many innings, he’s saved a lot of innings for the bullpen … .”
Kazmir is 1-2 with a 5.56 ERA in six starts against Kansas City (37-52), while Greinke is 0-2 with a 3.81 ERA in seven games - four starts - versus Tampa Bay.
Greinke will have to cool down a Rays’ offense that broke out Friday after entering the game averaging 3.4 runs thus far in July. Pat Burrell(notes) hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning and Evan Longoria(notes) added a go-ahead two-run shot in the eighth, helping Tampa Bay rally from a 6-2 deficit to win 8-7.
“I really believe our guys are motivated to get this thing done and to come back like that was really a pretty big moment,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It is a great way to start the second half.”
Kazmir, who has a 9.50 ERA at home, is 3-2 with a 3.81 ERA on the road.