What's up with Zack? Royals fall to Twins
Cy Young winner drops to 1-8 with fourth straight loss
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Zack Greinke freefall accelerated on Tuesday night.
Greinke surrendered six runs in five innings of the Royals' 7-3 loss to the first-place Minnesota Twins and right-hander Kevin Slowey with Target Field packed by a sellout crowd of 38,970. With his fourth straight loss, Greinke's record slid to 1-8 and his ERA jumped to 4.05.
Is there concern in Camp Royal?
"Minimal concern," manager Ned Yost said. "His stuff's great. His command has been a little streaky for him lately but pitchers, like hitters, get in a little bit of a rut and they've got to battle their way through it."
Even so, Greinke's slump is growing and, compared to last year, it's startlingly bleak. A year ago after 13 starts he was 8-2 with a 1.72 ERA en route to the American League Cy Young Award.
"Even if I pitch bad, it's hard to give up six runs or however many I gave up," Greinke said. "A lot of things have got to go wrong. You've got to pitch bad and the other team's got to play good. If you get breaks, you're not going to give up six runs. It's hard to do, I've done that a bunch the last month."
Another thing that's hard to do but has been done -- the Royals, in Greinke's four straight losses, have scored exactly no runs while he's been in the game. That's right, zip-a-dee-doo-dah.
He left those games trailing 7-0, 1-0, 4-0 and 6-0. Oh, my. Zero for Zack.
Of course, this time the Royals ran into Slowey, who looked more like the 2009 version of Greinke than Greinke. Slowey retired the first 13 batters he faced before Jose Guillen rifled a single up the middle with one out in the fifth inning.
Slowey worked seven shutout innings, holding Kansas City to three hits. He walked none and struck out three, boosting his record to 7-3. The Royals' runs all came off the Twins' relievers.
"It was real funny -- our offense picked up as soon as he got out of there," Yost said wryly. "Yeah, he did a great job."
Greinke struggled from the first inning, giving up three runs on four hits and a walk. Denard Span led off with a single but Greinke picked him off first base. Then Matt Tolbert drew Greinke's only walk.
"The first like eight guys got on, it seemed like," Greinke said. "I pitched bad the first two hitters probably but, after that, pretty good hitting."
Joe Mauer singled and so did Michael Cuddyer for a run. Jason Kubel's two-run double off the right-field wall did the most damage. In the fourth, Span's two-run single gave the Twins a 5-0 lead.
"To be honest, he's always given us trouble," Kubel said. "I know for me he used to always get me on sliders down and in and I was able to foul a couple of those off today. I kind of made some adjustments. I don't think he got them down as far as he wanted to, but he was still throwing all those pitches all over the strike zone and making us work for it. We took a lot of good pitches and made him throw a lot, too."
Indeed, Greinke made 102 pitches in his five innings, the same number that Slowey needed for seven innings.
The Royals had a shot at Slowey in the fifth with two on and two out, but Span ran down Mitch Maier's deep drive near the right-center-field wall.
"I hit it well but Span made a good play and that's what he's paid to do," Maier said. "Who knows what would've happened? It'd been 5-2 and we'd have had a whole new ballgame."
But it was the same old ballgame and Kubel put the last blast on Greinke's evening, lofting a solo home run far over the right-field seats. That left Greinke with a 7.09 ERA in his last four games.
The consideration about the ace pitcher's troubles continued.
Yost thought Greinke has been struggling with command of his pitches.
"He missed his spots, a couple here and there," catcher Jason Kendall said. "That was about it but, once again, we didn't get any run support for him. Go figure it out."
Greinke pondered the question of his command.
"It's not perfect. It's not awful," he decided. "Just not finishing off innings. ... Just not making perfect pitches when you need to and getting beat."
What can be done to put the brakes on Greinke's freefall? Kendall had one idea.
"It'd be nice to go out and get five runs for him one game," he said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.