TORONTO | Two ways for the Royals to look at this latest disaster. One bad. The other a lot worse.
One, Zack Greinke was probably overdue for a mulligan like this 9-3 battering administered Friday by the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.
Two, it’s not a mulligan, i.e., even Greinke is now infected by this astounding all-phase collapse that shows no signs of abating.
Whichever it was, he had few answers.
“It’s one thing to get hit,” he said, “but everything was a line drive. There was no weak contact. It was good hitting and bad pitching coming together. So it was a bad game all around.”
Let’s not sugarcoat it: Greinke was just about as bad on this one night as he’s been good throughout the rest of the season. He gave up a season-high seven runs and a season-high nine hits in a season-low-matching five innings. That damage included two homers -- his first homers allowed since Labor Day.
It could have been worse, too. There were a lot of loud outs.
“These guys don’t miss fastballs,” manager Trey Hillman said, “if they’re not real well located. Some of them caught too much plate, and some were up and caught too much plate. You can’t do that to this club.”
Greinke fell to 8-2 and, while two runs were unearned, his ERA jumped from 1.10 to 1.55. That remains the best, by far, in either league but a far cry from the 0.84 he possessed just a week ago.
Even if it was just a mulligan, it was the last thing the Royals needed.
Sitting down? Here’s the updated grim math: The Royals, 23-31, have lost a season-high eight straight games since Greinke beat Detroit on May 26. They have also lost 13 of their last 15, and 20 of their last 25.
The problems went beyond Greinke, of course.
The Royals trailed 7-0 and mustered just two singles through six innings before finally breaking through against Toronto lefty Ricky Romero in the seventh. Successive homers by José Guillen and Mike Jacobs made the final score somewhat less severe.
Jacobs’ homer was his club-leading 10th of the season but his first in 45 at-bats. It also punctuated a two-for-32 drought.
“If anything right now,” he said, “all 25 guys are putting a little too much pressure on themselves to try to do too much. It’s kind of a snowball effect.
“Our pitchers feel they’ve got to shut the door on people. If the other team gets two or three runs, and it’s like, `Here we go again.’ We’ve got to get out of that mindset.”
That’s easier said than done for an offense that scored more than three runs just twice in its last 14 games.
Romero, 3-2, gave up three runs and five hits in seven innings before Jason Frasor and Scott Downs closed up.
The Blue Jays scored their final two runs in eighth inning on Rod Barajas’ homer against Juan Cruz. They had four doubles in addition to their three homers in a 10-hit attack.
Greinke’s consecutive-innings streak of not allowing a homer ended at 111 when Lyle Overbay crunched a 96-mph fastball over the center-field wall with one out in the second inning.
“Bad pitch,” Greinke said. “It was down but down the middle. That’s about as easy a pitch for him to hit as there is. I mean, you’ve got to hit it, but it was right there.
“It was bound to happen. It just would have been nice if it wasn’t today.”
Overbay’s homer was the first against Greinke since Oakland’s Daric Barton went deep in the fifth inning on Sept. 2, 2008 at Kauffman Stadium. Greinke’s streak included 83 innings this season; no other pitcher has worked 30 innings this season without allowing a homer.
Greinke’s streak was the longest since Kevin Brown went 118 innings from Aug. 24, 1996 to May 20, 1997 while pitching for Florida.
Nothing cheap about Overbay’s drive; it was a bomb.
It got a lot worse in a four-run third inning. Two runs were unearned but, point of comparison, Greinke didn’t surrender his fourth run this season until his 48th inning.
Marco Scutaro led off with a double and scored on Alex Rios’ one-out double, which broke a zero-for-11 skid. Rios went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Vernon Wells’ grounder to short.
The throw from shortstop Tony Peña on Wells’ grounder pulled first baseman Billy Butler off the base for an error -- one of three errors the Royals committed. Wells went to second on Adam Lind’s single, and both runners scored on Overbay’s two-out double.
That made it 6-0 --or one run more than Greinke allowed in his first eight starts combined. Adam Lind’s one-out homer in the fifth extended the lead to 7-0.
“Whatever I threw was hit,” Greinke said. “It should have been more than five (earned) or seven runs. Even the outs were hits hard. So, obviously, I must not have pitched that well.”
Maybe it was just a mulligan. If not yikes.
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