06/19/08 7:16 PM ET
Royals secure historic I-70 Series sweep
Greinke's sparkling start gives Kansas City fifth straight win
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Zack Greinke pitched seven superb innings, Ramon Ramirez and Joakim Soria finished up, and the Royals polished off the Cardinals, 4-1, on Thursday as 44,277 fans soaked up the sun and the historic occasion at Busch Stadium.
Not that all those red-clad fans were terribly pleased, of course. In the three games, their Cardinals scored just four runs. In all fairness, it should be pointed out that their prime minister of production, Albert Pujols, was on the disabled list.
"We caught these guys at a good time with Pujols out and [catcher Yadier] Molina out and what they had to do with their rotation," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "But we took advantage of it and that's good to see."
Mark Teahen drove in three of the Royals' runs, most notably providing a cushion in the ninth inning with a two-run homer. That turned a 2-1 lead into what, in this series, was a blowout. The first two games were settled by one run.
Walking into the fray with this sumptuous lead was Soria, who had wrapped up the previous one-run games with a perfect inning in each.
"When you get more runs in the game, it's more tranquilo -- more relaxed," Soria said.
There was no Pujols to worry about, but he still had to face the 1-2-3 hitters in the Cardinals' lineup. But down they went, 1-2-3. It was Soria's 18th save.
There was more pleasant accounting on the Royals' ledger. This was their fifth straight victory and their sixth win in their last seven games. Not only that, but their record against National League teams this season is 7-2, posted against two teams that were in first place (Florida and Arizona) and one leading the Wild Card race (St. Louis).
Greinke had a theory on that.
"Maybe we don't realize how good they are when we're facing them because we don't get to see them all the time," he said.
"When you're facing all the teams in the American League all the time you're like, 'Man, this team is good.' That might have something to do with it. Like even [Ryan] Ludwick and [Rick] Ankiel. If they're in the American League, I'm probably treating them like they're among the best hitters in baseball. But since I never see them, I feel like I can get them out."
Which he did, except for Ankiel's home run in the fourth inning. That was just the first of only two hits given up by Greinke (6-4). He walked just one and struck out seven. His ERA plunged to 3.33.
Ankiel banged his 11th home run.
"It was a bad pitch," Greinke said. "He looked bad on changeups and I threw like six to him in that at-bat and he fouled off some good ones. Then I made a mistake with one and he hit it good."
At least Pujols wasn't in there, with his .394 career average against the Royals, including 3-for-6 against Greinke.
"It's a huge difference," Greinke said. "They're lucky that Ludwick is playing really good, which probably wasn't expected. The way he's playing this year, he's almost like an aggressive Pujols. He doesn't create the walks that Pujols does, but at least they have him in there to make it pretty tough."
Not tough enough. Ludwick was 2-for-10 in the series.
"They did a good job," he said. "Just shut us down."
Teahen wound up with three hits on Thursday with a triple and single in addition to the home run. The Royals got two runs in the fourth against Cardinals starter Brad Thompson, a last-minute fill-in for Anthony Reyes, who himself was a fill-in for Todd Wellemeyer.
Jose Guillen singled and scored on Mark Grudzielanek's double. Teahen then swatted an RBI single. Not much KC firepower, but enough for Greinke and friends.
"It starts with starting pitching. Greinke did a great job again today. It keeps us in games long enough to figure out ways to scratch out runs and, yeah, it's fun," Teahen said.
This was the sixth straight game in which Royals starters have gone seven or more innings, keeping the bullpen rested and sharp.
That played a big role in this sweep. In 12 years of Interleague Play, the Cardinals still hold the I-70 Series lead, 26-22, but the Royals have done better in St. Louis, winning 11 of 21 games.
One more statistic. This was the 35th time in history the Royals had a three-game series in a National League stadium. This was the first time they'd ever swept one.
"I knew that," Teahen said, laughing. "Who didn't know that?"
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.