KC's bullpen unable to back Greinke
Ace recovers from long first inning to allow two runs in six
BALTIMORE -- There was no flawless bullpen for the Royals this time.
Following two superb performances that soothed memories of a long subpar period, the Royals' relievers coughed up five runs in a 7-3 loss to the Orioles on Wednesday night at Camden Yards.
After Zack Greinke left with a 3-2 lead, the bullpen -- after nine shutout innings in two straight victories here -- had a meltdown.
"We couldn't pick the right one at the right time," Kansas City manager Trey Hillman said.
No, indeed. All that followed an unusual outing by Greinke, who decidedly was un-Zack-like when the rain-delayed game began. Perhaps the 41-minute wait, which came after he'd already warmed up, threw off his equilibrium.
No, that wasn't it, Greinke asserted. It was just that Brian Roberts whacked his second pitch for a single and then Adam Jones, on a 3-2 delivery, launched his 17th home run. That gave Jones a homer in the first inning of each of the three games in this series.
That didn't surprise Greinke, who had two days to study the slugger.
"Just in the batting practices I saw before the first game, I mean his swing's as good and as powerful as it gets," Greinke said.
Then Nick Markakis belted a double off the left-field wall, and the inning just slogged along. Before it was over, the Orioles had loaded the bases, although the scoring ceased as Gregg Zaun fanned for the third out. But Greinke faced eight batters and used up 34 pitches.
"I usually like to attack guys to start the game, and they came ready to swing," Greinke said.
In six innings, he ran up a pitch total of 116 despite not another scoring threat developing. The Orioles just kept fouling off pitches -- 38 in all against him.
"Greinke is as tough as anybody in the big leagues, but we worked him," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "We got his pitch count up and we worked him."
Heck, there were 14 foul balls alone in the third, a 1-2-3 inning for Greinke.
"It was like that all day," he said. "There were at least three, probably four or five, 10-pitch at-bats. One time I had to call [catcher Miguel] Olivo out because I had two straight 10-pitch at-bats, and I needed a rest. They're not only long at-bats, but they're high-stress at-bats, too."
Even so, he exited after six innings with a one-run lead.
That's because the Royals busted three solo home runs against Orioles phenom Chris Tillman, who was making his first Major League start. Tillman came from the Mariners in last year's big Erik Bedard trade, along with Jones and three others.
Tillman lasted 4 2/3 innings and served up home-run pitches to Alberto Callaspo (No. 7) and Miguel Olivo (No. 14) in the second inning. Then Mike Jacobs (No. 14) teed off in the direction of Eutaw Street in the fourth, breaking a 2-2 tie.
Greinke recovered nicely from his first-inning fright, forging five scoreless innings thereafter. He finished with seven strikeouts, giving him 153, and his ERA inched up to 2.08.
But the bullpen was unable to pull off another shutout outing -- far from it. Robinson Tejeda, who had three near-perfect innings on Monday night, walked both batters he faced in the seventh.
"Obviously the base on balls hurt you," Hillman said. "You hope to get the same thing from Robby as you got two nights ago, and you don't."
So Hillman switched to left-hander John Bale to face the troublesome right-handed Jones. Boom, he lofted a fly that clanked off the right-field scoreboard for a double that made it 3-3.
"In that situation, Jones is hitting 40-some points lower off left-handers, but you can't leave a fastball, even middle away, out over the plate, and that's what he did," Hillman said.
Then Bale gave up a two-run single to Markakis, and it was 5-3. In the eighth, the two pitchers who had not taken part in the bullpen bonanza in the first two games of the series -- Juan Cruz and Ron Mahay -- combined to give up two more runs.
Greinke remained stuck on 10 victories, finishing July with no wins and three losses in five starts. The Royals are 7-17 this month with two games remaining.
"We just found a way to lose a lot," Greinke said. "We've just been doing that this month. It usually doesn't last that long, even on the Royals' teams of the past. It's been a rough month for everyone."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.