DETROIT | Zack Greinke heads down the stretch this afternoon in his Cy Young quest by making his fifth start of the season against the Detroit Tigers when the Royals conclude their three-game series at Comerica Park.
Is familiarity a benefit or an obstacle?
“I don’t really know,” Greinke said. “Sometimes, I feel like I have an advantage. It should be more of an advantage for the pitcher. But it’s a matter of constant adjustments.
“I’ll give you an example: I had gotten (Cleveland DH Travis) Hafner out a bunch by pitching a certain way. But he changed (his approach) and got two hits in the last game. So I’ll have to change again.”
Hafner’s two-out RBI single in the eighth inning last Friday forced Greinke to settle for a no-decision despite allowing just that one run in eight innings. He also got a no-decision in his previous start when he allowed only one unearned run in eight innings against the Angels.
Those are just two of Greinke’s six starts this season when he allowed one or no runs and failed to get a victory. Another came in his last start against the Tigers: seven shutout innings on Aug. 14 here at Comerica in a no-decision.
A lack of victories — he is 13-8 — is the only blemish on his Cy Young credentials.
“He looks like he’s been pitching for 15 years now all of a sudden,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said earlier this season. “He’s the total package right now. There’s no question about it.”
It’s easy to understand Leyland’s praise. The Tigers have just five runs and 19 hits in 31 innings against Greinke, who also has 34 strikeouts and seven walks in his four starts along with a 0.839 WHiP (walks and hits per inning).
Greinke has three more starts after today if the Royals stick to their current rotation plans. He faces Boston on Tuesday at home before concluding his season with successive starts against Minnesota.
It will be his first start against the Red Sox and, perhaps surprisingly, his first starts against the Twins. The latter offers another study in familiarity: It will be the first time this season that he faced the same opponent without a gap of at least two starts.
“It seems in those situations,” Greinke said, “it almost always works out to where one is a good game, and one is a bad game. It seems if you do really well the first time, they get you the next time. Or the exact opposite.
“I don’t know why that happens, but that is what seems to happen a lot in back-to-back games against the same team.”
Right-hander Robinson Tejeda, after three encouraging starts, will be watched closely in his next outing to see whether he continues to have blister-type problems with his middle finger.
“He was babying the changeup a little bit (Tuesday) from the third inning on,” manager Trey Hillman said. “We’d never seen him back off on arm speed. It is a concern, but it’s only a concern if it lingers into the next start.”
Tejeda limited the Tigers to one run and two hits in five innings in an 11-1 victory. He is 2-0 while allowing just the lone run in 16 innings through three starts since replacing sore-shouldered Gil Meche in the rotation.
“It didn’t develop into a blister,” Hillman said. “It was just irritation. So it’s not as bad as it could be, but it did affect his delivery of (the changeup). It didn’t affect the delivery of his fastball, but he needs that changeup to be able to get back into the count.
“And, obviously, he needs to not change his delivery, his mechanics or his arm speed in order to stay as deceptive as you want that pitch to be.”
Tejeda’s next scheduled start is Sunday, when the Royals conclude a three-game weekend series in Chicago.
Still chasing Macfarlane
Miguel Olivo leads the Royals with a career-high 20 homers, but he remains two shy of Mike Macfarlane’s franchise-record of 20 by a catcher.
Two of Olivo’s homers, including Tuesday’s three-run shot, occurred as the designated hitter. Macfarlane hit all 20 of his homers in 1993 as a catcher.
Darrell Porter hit 20 homers in 1979 but, like Olivo, two came as a designated hitter. Three other players have hit 18 as a catcher: John Buck in 2007, Macfarlane in 1996 and Porter in 1978.
Outfielder Mark Teahen remains slowed by after-effects from muscle spasms in his lower back, which surfaced prior to last Saturday’s game in Cleveland. He was available Wednesday on an emergency-only basis and is unlikely to play in today’s series finale.
“Obviously, with where we are to this point in the season,” Hillman said, “we’ll be more cautious than aggressive about getting him back in.”
•Reliever Juan Cruz, who hasn’t pitched since Aug. 5, tested his strained shoulder with another bullpen workout. The next step in his recovery will be determined after he is evaluated today.
Not a good night on the farms, either.
Class AA Northwest Arkansas blew a five-run lead in a 7-6 loss to Midland in the Texas League Championship Series. The best-of-five set, now tied at 1-1, continues Friday at Northwest Arkansas.
Class A Burlington managed just four hits in a 2-0 loss at Fort Wayne in the Midwest League Championship Series. The Bees trail 2-0 in the best-of-five series, which resumes Friday at Burlington.
It was 35 years ago today — Sept. 17, 1974 — that Steve Busby became a 20-game winner when he pitched a complete game in a 2-1 victory over Oakland at then-Royals Stadium.
Busby outdueled Catfish Hunter by allowing one unearned run while improving to 20-14. Busby would finish the season at 22-14, which stood as the club record for victories until Bret Saberhagen won 23 in 1989.
There have been only eight 20-game winners in the club’s 41-year history and none in the last 20 seasons.
The complete list: Saberhagen 23 in 1989, Busby 22 in 1974; Dennis Leonard 21 in 1978; Mark Gubicza 20 in 1988; Saberhagen 20 in 1985; Leonard 20 in 1980; Leonard 20 in 1977; and Paul Splittorff 20 in 1973.
•The Tigers honored Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell in an on-field ceremony after the Royals batted in the third inning. Harwell, 91, recently revealed he has inoperable cancer. He addressed the crowd for a few minutes before departing to loud cheers.
•Greinke enters today with 216 strikeouts and needs 29 in his last four starts to break Leonard’s club record of 244 in 1977.
•The White Sox confirmed Jake Peavy will make his American League debut Saturday against the Royals. Peavy is a two-time ERA champion in the National League but has battled a ankle and elbow injuries since being acquired July 31 from San Diego.
•The Royals need a victory in today’s series finale to split the 18-game season series against the Tigers. The Royals had an 11-7 edge in 2008, but Detroit won the three previous years.
Royals’ catchers single-season home run leaders
HR as catcher, player, year, total HR
20 Mike Macfarlane, 1993, 20
18 Miguel Olivo*, 2009, 20
18 John Buck, 2007, 18
18 Mike Macfarlane, 1996, 19
18 Darrell Porter, 1979, 20
18 Darrell Porter, 1978 18
* through Tuesday