In Zack Greinke(notes), the Kansas City Royals boast not merely one of the top young pitchers in baseball, but one of the top current pitchers of any age. In Chris Tillman(notes), the Baltimore Orioles hope they have another young arm with the ability to achieve that status.
Tillman makes his major league debut Wednesday night at Camden Yards against Greinke, who must hope for better support than he’s received lately from his Royals teammates.
Though Baltimore (42-57) appears on the way to its 12th consecutive losing season, a bumper crop of young players is providing cause for optimism. Center fielder Adam Jones(notes), 24, is an All-Star, catcher Matt Wieters(notes) made the most-anticipated major league debut of the season in May, and rookies Brad Bergesen(notes) (3.56) and David Hernandez(notes) (3.20) have the two lowest ERAs in the rotation.
Tillman may prove to be the best rookie pitcher of the bunch. The 21-year-old right-hander was ranked among the top prospects in the game by multiple publications entering this season, and was 8-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 18 starts for Triple-A Norfolk before earning his promotion.
Greinke (10-6, 2.04 ERA) may be winless since June and own a losing record since winning his first six starts, but lately it’s been through no fault of his own. The 25-year-old All-Star has limited opponents to three earned runs or fewer in six consecutive starts, but is 0-3 in his last four outings as the Royals (40-59) have provided him three total runs of support.
Greinke limited a powerful Texas lineup to one run and three hits over seven innings while striking out 10 last Friday, but wound up on the losing end of a 2-0 score.
“I thought for sure we’d get a couple,” said Greinke, who beat the Orioles 8-1 at home May 15, when he allowed one run in seven innings. “It really didn’t cross my mind if one run wins it - that’s pretty rare. You can’t do anything about that really. I’m just trying to keep them down, so we can come back.”
The Royals have come from behind to win the first two contests of this four-game set, notching their first consecutive victories since a three-game winning streak July 4-6. Willie Bloomquist(notes) homered to tie Tuesday’s game in the top of the eighth inning, and Kansas City won it 4-3 in the 11th after John Buck(notes) singled home Mark Teahen(notes).
“That’s called two in a row. We like it,” manager Trey Hillman said. “It means a lot to me. I think these guys still have a lot of pride.”
Wieters had a career-high four hits for the Orioles and Jones added a two-run homer, but those efforts couldn’t prevent Baltimore’s seventh loss in eight games. The Orioles are batting .157 (11 for 70) with runners in scoring position during that stretch, including 1 for 10 in Tuesday’s loss.
“We certainly had a lot of guys up in situations when we could have broken through, but it didn’t happen,” manager Dave Trembley said.
Jones, who also hit a solo home run in Monday’s series opener, has four homers and nine RBIs in 11 games since the All-Star break.