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No-decision for Greinke in debut
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05/22/2004  7:01 PM ET
No-decision for Greinke in debut
One strike from victory, Royals' pen can't close out A's
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Zack Greinke was impressive in his Major League debut in Oakland. (Jeff Chiu/AP)
OAKLAND - A ray of sunshine zapped through the dark cloud that hovers over the Royals these days. His name is Zack Greinke.

Greinke pitched five solid innings in his highly-anticipated Major League debut on Saturday, providing some fresh hope for a club that has never been so bad after the first 40 games.

When the Royals lost an 11-inning, 5-4 decision to the Oakland Athletics, their record wilted to 13-27, worst record at this point in franchise history.

Greinke, a right-hander who left the game with a 4-2 lead, saw his chance for victory vanish with newly-named closer Jeremy Affeldt just one strike from ending the game in the ninth. Eric Chavez ripped a two-run homer for a 4-4 tie.

"It was getting pretty exciting there for a while," Greinke said. "But it didn't happen. But we played pretty good until then."

Then, in the 11th, reliever Scott Sullivan intentionally walked Erubiel Durazo to load the bases with two outs. Bobby Crosby's roller took Desi Relaford to the shortstop side of second base and Crosby flashed to a game-winning RBI single.

Greinke, the youngest player in the Major Leagues, made his first start at the age of 20 years, seven months and one day. Only two Royals pitchers were younger when they first started -- Bret Saberhagen in 1984 and Mark Littell in 1973.

"This kid Greinke did a great job," manager Tony Pena said. "Five strong innings, maybe one bad pitch in the game. I was very impressed."

Greinke threw his first pitch for a strike and retired the first three batters he faced. Scott Hatteberg opened the second with a pop-fly double that dropped between right fielder Mendy Lopez and Relaford. Greinke, who hasn't made an error in his pro career, snagged Durazo's grounder and caught Hatteberg off second base. Then he threw a double-play pitch to Crosby.

"He mixes his speeds really well and hits his spots," Crosby said. "For a young kid like that, it's impressive."

With two out and Adam Melhuse on base with a line-drive single, Greinke ended the third inning with his first and only strikeout, sneaking a pitch past Eric Byrnes.

"I feel like I can get out of jams when I want to, but that's just the luck of the bounce a lot of times," Greinke said. "Sometimes they'll hit it good -- like today Chavez just crushed one right at me -- and nine times out of 10 it's going to be a single and score a run. But somehow I got the glove on it."

That shot came in the fourth after Billy McMillon doubled. Greinke made the catch like a Gold Glover.

There was a much longer shot coming up, though. Durazo pounded a first-pitch curveball high over the right-center field wall to give the A's a 2-1 lead. Mike Sweeney had led off the Royals' fourth with a home run against left-hander Barry Zito.

"The bad thing about it was that Sweeney and (catcher Benito) Santiago came out and told me to pitch around this guy because I've got an open base. Don't let him hurt you," Greinke said.

"I gave him a good first-pitch curveball but it broke right into his bat, man. He hit it pretty well, right on it. I shouldn't have pitched it there."

Before Greinke completed his outing, he had to escape a two-out bases-loaded situation in the fifth. Melhuse doubled off the left-field wall, Byrnes was grazed by a high inside pitch and McMillon drew the only walk off Greinke.

Facing Chavez again, Greinke hatched a plan.

"He was on everything, you know, so I was just like, 'Hey, I'm going to throw it as slow as I can instead of as hard as I can,' " he said. "Because he was on that one I threw as hard as I could. So I tried the opposite philosophy."

Greinke lazed a curveball in at about 62 mph and Chavez rolled out to second.

When the Royals had a long sixth inning and took a 4-2 lead on Brandon Berger's two-run double, Pena pulled his prodigy.

Greinke made 84 pitches, gave up five hits and two runs, and seemed headed for victory when Nate Field, Jason Grimsley and Affeldt each pitched a scoreless inning.

Then, in the ninth, shortstop Angel Berroa booted Byrnes' ground ball and, with two outs, Chavez cranked a score-tying home run to left-center field off Affeldt.

"I obviously didn't enjoy seeing them come back but, for me, it was a great game to watch. I mean, it was disappointing but it was a good game," Greinke said.

"And when they got that home run in the ninth, it just crushed us."

At least, though, Greinke gave a club that has won just 13 of 40 games a bright ray of hope.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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