CLEVELAND | The only real question for the Royals after they posted a sweep of 8-3 and 8-4 over the Cleveland Indians in the Saturday’s rain-delayed double-header:
Why don’t we see this team more often?
As winning pitcher Zack Greinke observed after the opener, “It was a good game all round. The defense played well, and the offense did well and the pitching was good.”
Second game, ditto.
Really, there wasn’t much not to like. The Royals rapped out 31 hits in the two games. Greinke wasn’t particularly sharp in the first game, but the offensive awakening meant he didn’t need to be.
“Just a couple of missed executions, offensively,” manager Trey Hillman said. “But overall, it was really good. Zack, I thought he pitched pretty well.”
Reliever Robinson Tejeda, 2-2, then delivered five strong innings as a spot starter in the second game. He allowed one run and just two hits and threw 80 pitches — or 25 more than the 45-55 maximum the Royals were seeking.
“They asked me in the fourth inning,” he said, “and I said I wanted one more. When the fourth inning was over, I said, `Let me go through five.’”
Tejeda had not pitched more than 2 2/3 innings or thrown more than 48 pitches in any of his 27 relief appearances. But he wanted the victory and cherished it.
“I feel like I did after my first start in the big leagues,” he said. “That’s how I feel.”
The Royals also flexed some muscle in the second game. Mark Teahen hit two homers for just the second multi-homer game of his career. Ryan Shealy homered and added three singles to a 16-hit attack.
“Whenever you have an offensive outburst like we had the first game,” Shealy said, “you tend to see it go the other way in the second game. But guys put good at-bats together, and we kept going.”
Devon Lowery inherited an 8-2 lead in the ninth but exited after surrendering two runs and four hits. Joakim Soria nailed it down, though, getting the final out for his 37th save.
Greinke, 11-10, started the sweep by delivering his 21st quality start in 31 outings. He also beat the Indians for the first time in three starts over a 24-day stretch.
It helped, of course, that he wasn’t facing presumptive Cy Young winner Cliff Lee for a third straight time.
“Gil (Meche) had to deal with that this time (in Friday’s loss),” Greinke said. “I did all right, and everyone else led the way pretty much.”
Teahen also paced the first-game offense with three hits, while Ross Gload and Alberto Callaspo each had two hits and contributed a pair of RBIs. Eight of nine different starters had at least one hit.
Much of the damage came against Indians starter Fausto Carmona, who remains a shell of his dominant 2007 form. He dropped to 8-7 after allowing seven runs and 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings.
“We were able to be aggressive with Carmona,” said David DeJesus, who had two hits and scored twice. “He has that good sink, but our focus was to make him get it up in the zone. Once we saw that, we were able to attack it and get the hits.”
Other teams must be doing that, too. Carmona’s ERA jumped to 5.16; he was 19-8 last season with a 3.06 ERA.
The Royals built leads of 2-1 and 4-2, but the Indians kept answering until a four-run burst in the seventh inning knocked out Carmona.
The Royals also beat up second-game starter Bryan Bullington, 0-1, for six runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. It was Bullington’s first start since the Indians claimed him on waivers in July from Pittsburgh. He was the first overall pick in the 2002 draft.
Teahen’s first homer broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth. Miguel Olivo had a two-run single in a three-run sixth that extended the lead to 6-1. Olivo finished with three hits and three RBIs.
The double-header was scheduled because of a May 2 rainout. More rain Saturday delayed the opener by 2 hours, 14 minutes. The second game started on time, but the threat of rain remained in the area.
The sweep followed Friday’s 12-5 loss in the four-game series and boosted the Royals to 7-5 in September. They also improved to 64-84 with 14 games remaining and need six more victories for their second 70-victory season in eight years.
So, again, why doesn’t this happen more often?
“Sometimes it’s a product of scoring early and building some confidence early,” Hillman said. “More often that not, it’s a product of a lack of experience and a lack of focus at times.
“We saw it the first two weeks of the season. I remember all of the hope that you come into the season with, and you get off to a hot start, it builds the excitement. You’ve got to keep hoping.”