KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Zack Greinke talked last winter about a pitcher reaching that perfect blend, where physical ability exactly matches mental ability.
So with a 5-0 record after five starts and a microscopic ERA, is he there?
“I’m trying to get to that,” he said. “But not yet.”
The Kansas City right-hander is close, though. He gave up an earned run for the first time in 43 innings, but Billy Butler backed him up with two homers Wednesday night and the Kansas City Royals pounded 11 extra-base hits in an 11-3 rout of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Vernon Wells’ RBI single with two outs in the first produced the first earned run off Greinke (5-0) since last September, a span of six starts. After throwing complete games his two previous starts, Greinke went seven innings, allowing five hits and two runs with two walks and eight strikeouts. He leads the AL with 44 strikeouts.
His ERA climbed from 0.00 to 0.50.
“Usually, two outs, anyone on base, I feel like I could finish it,” Greinke said. “But I threw some pitches right where I wanted to and Vernon Wells, I usually consider him a guy who would chase a good slider. But he did a great job. I guess he just said, `I’m going to let any fastball go by me and I’m just hitting a straight slider,’ and he won the game out of that.”
Wells paid homage to the only pitcher in Royals history to post a 5-0 April.
“He was able to throw every pitch for a strike,” Wells said. “He keeps you off balance. He’ll blow you away with a 95 (mph) if he wants to. He was dominant, as he has been all year.”
Butler, hitting .193 when the game began, was 4 for 5 with two homers, a double, four RBIs and four runs scored. He homered, doubled and homered in three at-bats off left-hander Brian Tallet (1-1), who was charged with 10 runs on 11 hits in four-plus innings.
“I really didn’t do anything different,” said Butler. “I’ve been hitting the ball hard lately and it just hasn’t been working out. But it’s a long season and it always evens out. I’ve got to keep it going, but still enjoy tonight. It felt awesome. I picked up some guys who have been picking me up.”
Marco Scutaro doubled leading off against Greinke. After Aaron Hill and Alex Rios struck out, Wells dropped an RBI single into right-center. Before that, the only run off Greinke this year was unearned, off a throwing error by shortstop Aviles.
“I was very impressed with (Toronto’s) at-bats in the first inning,” said Royals manager Trey Hillman. “I felt like they had a very good approach. They had quality at-bats against Zack.”
Greinke gave up another run in the third when Scutaro walked leading off and eventually scored from third on a double-play grounder.
Greinke, whose 43 innings without an earned run are a club record, joined former Los Angeles Dodger great Fernando Valenzuela as the only pitchers since the early 1900s to not allow an earned run through their first four starts of a season.
“If anything, he showed he’s human,” said Hillman. “He left a couple of pitches a little bit up that he normally buries. But to be able to square up a slider on Zack with the velocity, even if it’s a little bit up, is very impressive. He had a very good outing.”
Eight Royals pitchers had won four games in April … The game was delayed 31 minutes at the start by rain. … First base umpire Lance Barksdale first signaled Alberto Callaspo’s double down the line in the fifth inning foul, but in a very animated fashion immediately changed his mind and signaled fair. Toronto manager Cito Gaston came out and discussed it briefly. … RHP Gil Meche, who left Tuesday night’s game with a sore lower back will probably not miss a start, the Royals said. … Butler’s average went from .193 to .242.