A little sunshine popped through Thursday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals erased an early three-run deficit in rallying for a 6-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians that (a) ended a seven-game losing streak and (b) finally put a “W” next to Zack Greinke’s name in the box score.
But the good times ended quickly after the game when general manager Dayton Moore announced the firing of manager Trey Hillman. Moore replaced Hillman with former Brewers manager Ned Yost, who joined the Royals as an assistant to Moore.
Back to the game. This wasn’t Greinke, 1-4, at his best, certainly. He wobbled through a 27-pitch second inning and coughed up three runs in the third by surrendering four consecutive two-out hits.
Even so, Greinke still delivered a fifth straight quality start: six innings, three runs and eight hits. He also matched a season high with eight strikeouts. He handed a 6-3 lead to Robinson Tejeda in the seventh.
That was no sure thing, of course. The bullpen blew three potential victories for Greinke in his seven previous starts. And, sure, there were some anxious moments, but the bullpen held on.
Tejeda worked around a two-on, one-out threat in the seventh when Austin Kearns grounded into a double play. The Indians nicked Tejeda for a run in the eighth before Dusty Hughes retired Grady Sizemore on a foul pop with the tying runs on base.
Joakim Soria retired the first two hitters in the ninth before issuing a walk to Kearns before closing the game with a final bit of drama: He caught Jhonny Peralta’s liner to mound for the game’s final out.
Think the Royals needed this one?
They had scored only two runs through 21 innings in the three-game series before Alberto Callaspo ignited the comeback with a three-run homer in the fourth inning against Cleveland starter David Huff,
David DeJesus and Billy Butler delivered two-out RBIs in a two-run fifth that put the Royals on top. Yuniesky Betancourt had a two-out RBI double in the sixth that finished Huff.
From there, it was up to the Royals’ bullpen. Greinke had thrown 112 pitches through six innings.
The victory enabled the Royals, 12-23, to avoid a three-game sweep to the Indians, 13-19. Greinke’s victory was his first since Sept. 27, 2009, when he beat the Twins 4-1 at Kauffman Stadium.
A long time. Early on, his drought showed no signs of ending.
Asdrubal Cabrera opened the game with a twisting fly into the left-field corner beyond the reach of Scott Podsednik, whose oddly casual pursuit of the carom helped turned the play into a triple.
Greinke pitched out of it.
Sizemore struck out before the inning turned on Shin-Soo Choo’s grounder to third, which turned into an out at the plate on a close play. Travis Hafner grounded out to first.
Greinke worked around a single and a walk in the second by striking out the side but needed 27 pitches to do it.
The Indians broke through in the third.
Cabrera led off with a single, but Greinke retired the next two hitters before Hafner beat an infield overshift with a slow roller through the spot vacated by Betancourt at shortstop.
Then it fell apart.
Kearns served successive RBI singles into center before Matt LaPorta, who entered the game with one RBI in 21 games, whacked a run-scoring double over Podsednik’s head for a 3-0 lead.
The Royals pulled even in the fourth after DeJesus led off with a single. Huff, 1-5, walked José Guillen with one out before Callaspo yanked a three-run homer over the left-field wall.
It was Callaspo’s sixth homer of the season but first from the right-handed side.
The Royals were back for more in the fifth.
Betancourt led off with a double into the left-field corner. He went to third on Podsednik’s grounder to short – after Cabrera made the throw across the diamond. Mike Aviles lined out to third, but DeJesus delivered a two-out RBI single that fell just in front of a diving Sizemore in center.
The Royals had their first lead of the series at 4-3.
Butler followed with an RBI double into the right-center gap, and it was 5-3.
The Royals added another run, and knocked out Huff, in the sixth inning. Mitch Maier had a check-swing single through the left side with two outs and came all the way around on Betancourt’s flared double down the right-field line.