04/10/08 12:50 AM ET
Greinke stymies Yanks to lead Royals
Eight shutout innings help club open season with 6-2 record
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Zack Greinke and the Kansas City Royals slogged through mud and rain to dunk the New York Yankees, 4-0, on Wednesday night, as 19,007 fans huddled under umbrellas, plastic gear and the overhangs at Kauffman Stadium.
Greinke held the Yankees to six hits in eight innings, and the Royals' hot start reached 6-2.
In the constant rain, there were mud-caked uniforms, soggy gloves and heavy footing. Yet the game, and Greinke, kept grinding on, inning after inning.
"The field was in bad shape, but we were playing in it like that already, and it wasn't like it was that much worse than the inning before," Greinke said.
The threat of rain prompted Yankees manager Joe Girardi to scratch Ian Kennedy as his starting pitcher. Instead, he decided to start the game with relievers and use Kennedy after a rain delay, if there was one.
Royals manager Trey Hillman was informed about the pitching change about 10 minutes before game time and told his players in the dugout.
"I didn't see any panic in anyone -- I understood why Joe chose to go that way with the weather situation tonight," Hillman said.
Despite the gloomy weather forecast, he decided to stay with Greinke.
"From a managerial standpoint, you sit there and ask yourself if you did the right thing, and you really don't know until a few hours later," Hillman said. "I'm glad we stuck with our starter, and Zack pitched outstanding."
Not that it was easy.
Rain began falling in the second inning, and radar reports looked ominous. In fact, the steady rain never stopped, and the grounds crew kept pouring a drying compound onto infield puddles.
Brian Bruney started for the Yankees and worked two innings. Then came Billy Traber for one inning. Kyle Farnsworth followed him and gave up a booming blast in the fifth.
John Buck peered through the raindrops and drove Farnsworth's first pitch of the inning over the left-center-field wall. It banged into the back wall of the waterfall and plopped, appropriately, into the pool. The drive was estimated at 439 feet.
"It's tough to see, so if you get a pitch, jump on it," Buck said. "That was my approach today. He came after me, and luckily, I made good contact."
The Royals sloshed on. Joey Gathright put down a bunt single, and Mark Grudzielanek walked. Gathright was a muddy out trying to steal third base, but Mark Teahen walked and Jose Guillen lined an RBI single for a 2-0 lead.
The hit was only the fifth in 32 at-bats for the slumping Guillen.
In the sixth, with rain still falling but no delay in effect, Girardi summoned the sidetracked Kennedy to the mound. He immediately gave up two runs as Alex Gordon walked, Ross Gload pounded an RBI double, Buck singled and Tony Pena hit a run-scoring groundout.
Greinke got tougher as he went along. Through eight innings, he had thrown 107 pitches and was willing to finish up.
"I believe he could have probably finished the game, but I just don't think it's the prudent thing to do in your second start in these conditions," Hillman said.
Out of the bullpen came Yasuhiko Yabuta, the Japanese import. He got an out, but Alex Rodriguez lined a single off the glove of Pena, the shortstop, and countryman Hideki Matsui walked.
With lefty slugger Jason Giambi holding a bat, Hillman waved for lefty Jimmy Gobble.
"In that situation, coming in to face Giambi, I knew I had to put a slider in a good spot because he can beat you with one pitch, or at least get the game a lot closer," Gobble said.
The strategy worked perfectly, as Giambi hit a towering infield popout. Gobble struck out Jose Molina, and he had a save.
So the Royals stood at 6-2 in the American League Central.
"Did the White Sox win tonight?" Billy Butler asked.
The answer was no.
"That means we're in sole possession of first place," Butler with a beaming smile.
Yep, somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout. It's right here in Mudville.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.