Greinke strong, but bats foiled by Rays
Righty fans seven over six, but Royals manage just five htis
ST. PETERSBURG -- Before a pitch was even thrown in the current four-game series with the Rays, Royals manager Trey Hillman was vocal about the importance of his team's starting pitching.
Hillman got his wish on Saturday night, but Zack Greinke was left wondering if his skipper couldn't just have been a bit more specific.
The young right-hander tossed six innings of two-run ball but was outdueled by the Rays' Andy Sonnanstine -- who threw seven shutout innings -- in the Royals' second straight loss to the Rays, 3-0, at Tropicana Field.
After allowing a pair of singles to open the second inning, Greinke fanned the next two Tampa Bay batters and looked poised to get out of the jam unscathed. But Akinori Iwamura laced a two-out liner just outside the reach of center fielder Joey Gathright, plating a pair of runs.
"Tried to get it, but I was a little too late," Gathright said. The speedy outfielder added that he didn't even think he had a play on the ball until the last moment.
But the bigger issue was the Royals' offensive standstill.
"He nitpicks," Gathright said of Sonnanstine. "Keeps you off-balance. He's doesn't throw that fast, and his offspeed is even slower, but he's got good movement on his pitches. Can't say anything bad about him."
The Royals certainly couldn't find any flaw in the crafty right-hander, as Sonnanstine scattered five hits and allowed only one multi-hit inning -- via a pair of two-out singles in the second -- en route to his 10th victory this year.
He was backed by a solid defense and, for the second consecutive night, the Royals were unable to apply any early pressure to a Rays starter.
"Just not very selective of what we swung at," Hillman said. "Not as good as an approach against a pitcher like him. You know he's going to bring the kitchen sink [of pitches] at you."
Greinke did an impressive job, too, as the young right-hander pounded the inside corner and fanned seven Rays in six innings.
But a full-count fastball to Iwamura -- with the Royals infield shading the left-handed hitter -- did what seemingly every ball in the series has done: It fell in the Rays' favor.
"You have to catch a break against [someone pitching like Greinke]," Rays slugger Cliff Floyd said. "He had command of everything he threw tonight ... Hitting-wise, when we don't do what we want to do, we capitalize on a couple of breaks, and that's what we did tonight."
Timely hitting is nothing new for a Tampa Bay squad built around pitching and defense. While the Royals went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, the Rays were 1-for-11 and made that one conversion count.
"Things are going their way," Gathright said. "We've been winning lately, but sometimes that happens. It's baseball, it's going to happen. These next two games, maybe it will start going our way, go against them."
Hillman made it no secret that the swings on Saturday night were frustrating.
"They've got everything firing," he said. "We've got to do a better job with our offensive approach. We've got to be able to put in some runs to be able to beat this team."
While surely disappointed that his quality start went for nil, Greinke wasn't as willing to hang Royals hitters out to dry.
"[The Rays] just swept Boston and are first place in baseball," he said. "When they are playing good, it's hard to win games.
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.