CHICAGO | No pitcher shuts down the Royals like Zack Greinke.
Here was fresh proof that deadbeat dads provide better support than the Royals when their ace takes the mound. And when Zack is less than super, as occurred Wednesday afternoon, then there’s just no chance.
Greinke surrendered three homers in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. He also gave up all four runs in his seven innings, which meant he failed to deliver a quality start for just the fifth time in 25 outings.
“You give up four runs, you should lose,” Greinke said. “If a team gets me for four runs, that’s a terrible effort.”
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That’s what it’s come down to.
This wasn’t as galling, certainly, as his last start, when Greinke got a no-decision at Detroit in return for seven scoreless innings. Lots of his starts have been far more wasteful than this, really.
And yet, consider:
White Sox veteran José Contreras entered the game winless in six starts while compiling a 7.62 ERA since the All-Star Game and in danger of losing his spot in the rotation.
Contreras’ 11 losses were also just one shy of the league high despite spending nearly a month in the minors. In short, it’s hard to imagine the Royals, with Greinke, enjoying a better matchup.
“It was the best pitcher in the American League,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said, “against the most-struggling pitcher in the American League. The odds were against us, but José went out and threw strikes.”
The Royals got three hits and one run -- a homer by David DeJesus -- against Contreras in seven innings. He struck out eight and walked one in a tidy 97-pitch performance.
“He’s a guy who when he’s on, he’s on,” third baseman Mark Teahen said. “I think we helped him out early by not being selective enough. But he was throwing his off-speed (pitches) over the plate and did a decent job.”
The Royals, in fact, made Contreras, 5-11, appear dominant.
“To me,” right fielder Willie Bloomquist said, “he just had to throw balls out of the zone, and I’d swing at them. He had decent movement. His split was OK. His slider was OK. But for me, it was just (poor) plate discipline.”
Reliever Matt Thornton surrendered the Royals’ other run, on a one-out homer by Teahen in the eighth inning. Thornton got the first out in the ninth before Bobby Jenks closed out the victory for his 26th save in 30 appearances.
The loss dropped the Royals to 47-73 and denied them a series victory and a winning road trip. They went 4-5 on a trek that began with three games at Minnesota and continued with three in Detroit.
Greinke is now 11-8 after his marvelous 8-1 romp through the season’s first two months. His ERA inched up to 2.44, which continues to lead the American League, but his Cy Young Award chances continue to dim.
This marked the 16th time in Greinke’s 25 starts that the Royals scored fewer than four runs. They have scored fewer than three in five of his eight losses and are now 11-14 when he starts.
“It’s got to be frustrating for him,” manager Trey Hillman said. “It’s frustrating for us.”
Greinke gave up a run in the first inning on doubles by Scott Podsednik and Paul Konerko. Then came homers by rookie Gordon Beckham in the third inning, Carlos Quentin in the fifth inning and Alex Rios in the seventh inning.
Chicago’s only other hit against Greinke was a Rios double in the second inning. Six hits in seven innings but all for extra bases.
“It seems that’s how this team is,” Greinke said. “When you make your pitches, they don’t have a chance. But when you make a mistake, they make you pay.”
Trouble is, too often the Royals make him pay twice.