06/28/08 2:31 AM ET
Hillman's advice serving Meche well
Right-hander's new aggressive approach paying off for Royals
By Mark Dent / MLB.com
About month later, after another Meche victory -- 7-2 over St. Louis -- you could call it genius.
Hillman had few words for Meche on May 15, but they stuck.
On that day, Meche was 2-5 with a 5.98 ERA. In his words, he was nitpicking, aiming the ball too much. Since he heeded the advice and started attacking, Meche has gone 4-3 and lowered his ERA by more than a run. Friday's victory over the Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium just added to the list of solid performances. Meche went seven innings, giving up just one run and getting important outs at the right times.
"That has changed me completely," Meche said about Hillman's advice. "Since then, good things have happened."
These quality outings have almost taken on a routine feel for Meche. In fact, he didn't even speak too positively about his performance on Friday. Meche said that he wasn't sharp.
All he really wanted to talk about was the defense. In the first inning, with a runner on, Mark Teahen made a leaping catch at the wall, preventing what would've likely been an Albert Pujols RBI double. That was the second out. Catcher John Buck tangled with a chair near the Royals' dugout before securing the third.
"You give up a lead right there," Meche said, "the momentum is totally in their hands."
But later in the game, Meche really came through. Troy Glaus opened the seventh inning with a home run, and the next batter, Chris Duncan, doubled. The game could've turned.
Pitching coach Bob McClure came to the mound and asked Meche what he wanted to do.
"Get three outs in a row," Meche told him.
He proceeded to strike out Yadier Molina, force Adam Kennedy into a groundout and retire Aaron Miles on a flyout. Inning over.
"As we've all seen it, when it starts going downhill in the fifth or sixth, a lot of times it leads to multiple-run innings, because, I think, he gets frustrated," Hillman said. "The frustration overtakes him to where he doesn't locate so well. He did a real good job of getting back in control of that inning."
Hillman has an opinion on why Meche has been pitching better lately as well. It has to do with that passionate message Hillman gave his pitcher more than a month ago.
"I think it's as simple as being aggressive to contact rather than picking a little bit too much," Hillman said. "Everybody knows he's got quality stuff."
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.