Greinke endures hit parade in KC loss
Ace stumbles against Rays offense in forgettable outing
ST. PETERSBURG -- If this wasn't Zack Greinke's worst outing of the year, it was, as they say, certainly amongst them.
With the Royals' 10-4 loss to the Rays on Monday in front of 24,219 fans at Tropicana Field, Greinke's string of starts without a victory reached six. His record, once a grand 8-1, has slipped to 10-7.
The Royals ended their road trip to Baltimore and St. Petersburg with a 3-5 mark and open a homestand against Seattle on Tuesday night.
On the plus side of Monday's game, the Royals got two hits, including a home run from long-dormant shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. He snapped a 0-for-13 skid with a single and hit a solo shot in the ninth.
But this was definitely not Greinke's day.
"It was just mainly really bad pitching to start the game off and I got myself in trouble," Greinke said.
By the second inning, the Rays had twice loaded the bases and held a 4-1 lead. The usually impeccable Greinke, by the second, already had equaled his season high by issuing three walks.
"They kept the pressure on Zack all day with the baserunners -- that's where they're really tough," said acting manager John Gibbons. "You walk the leadoff hitter in the first two innings and that came back to bite him."
Two walks and Carl Crawford's single loaded the bases in the first and Carlos Pena, defying a right-field shift, punched a two-run single into left field.
"I think it might have jammed him, but he got enough to get it through," Gibbons said.
Greinke shut that rally off, though, with two strikeouts.
The right-hander began the second with a walk, and Gabe Kapler's single and Jason Bartlett's safe bunt jammed the sacks with no outs. Crawford lined a two-run double, which spurred Greinke into action -- three straight strikeouts to end the inning.
And, for goodness' sake, when Crawford got a run-scoring single off Greinke in the fourth, he was 3-for-3 with three RBIs.
"Carl Crawford had a good day -- he hit a fastball away, a slow curve and a changeup down," Greinke said. "So he helped make it look worse than it could have been."
Reporters told Greinke that Crawford had gone just 1-for-16 against him before this.
"It sure doesn't feel like that," Greinke said. "Either you need to look at that again or I need to, because it feels like he does pretty good off me anyway. But you probably know what you're talking about."
On the other hand, Willy Aybar was 3-for-3 against Greinke before today. After going hitless in his first two at-bats, Aybar crushed a fifth-inning home run into the right-field seats.
"I've had a lot of luck against him -- he's a good pitcher, but I've just looked for my pitch and I've had luck with that," Aybar said.
Greinke gave up two more hits -- for a total of 10 -- before ending the inning and his outing after 105 pitches, trailing, 6-1.
The five innings matched his shortest stint of the year, but, despite all the bad numbers, he did get nine strikeouts to give him 162 in 152 1/3 innings. Seven of the whiffs came with runners in scoring position.
"Everything they hit seemed to be a base hit so when there are guys in scoring position, I usually give them my best pitches," Greinke said. "And that's what I did today. They got some strikeouts and they got some hits, too. So it really didn't matter how many I struck out, because everything they hit was a base hit."
Meanwhile, Rays left-hander Scott Kazmir gave up one run in the second on Miguel Olivo's two-out single. Kazmir was confronted with a bases-loaded situation in the fifth, but escaped as Willie Bloomquist flied out deep to center.
Kazmir left with a 6-2 lead -- John Buck doubled in a run in the sixth -- after a leadoff walk in the seventh.
The Royals proceeded to load the bases against reliever Grant Balfour, but got only one run, on Billy Butler's sacrifice fly. That tightened the Rays' lead to 6-3, but Kansas City's bullpen coughed up four runs in the bottom of the inning.
Aybar unloaded his second homer against Ron Mahay. Then, with Roman Colon taking over, Michel Hernandez smacked a RBI triple and Bartlett whacked a two-run triple.
This game was headed for the Royals' loss column.
Betancourt got his first homer since joining the Royals, and his third of the season off reliever J.P. Howell in the ninth. It's been a rough introduction for Betancourt, now batting .140 (8-for-57) in 17 games with the Royals.
"I feel comfortable at the plate and, after getting two hits, it builds on my confidence," Betancourt said through coach Eddie Rodriguez, who translated from Spanish.
But he had to admit: "It has been a tough stretch."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.