KANSAS CITY, Mo. —It's June now and, clearly, it's just not happening for Zack Greinke. Thursday brought more of the same. Scant support, yes, but he also simply isn't dominating opponents as he did last year as the American League's Cy Young winner.
The latest evidence came in a 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium.
"The last month, I haven't really been myself," Greinke admitted. "Everything looks tougher. The hitters look better, and the strike zone looks smaller. It just seems tougher out there at the moment."
No, he doesn't feel he's getting squeezed at the plate.
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Greinke even had kind words for umpire Mike Estabrook — in sharp contrast to the criticism leveled by manager Ned Yost and catcher Jason Kendall. Yost was ejected in the third inning. (We'll get to that.)
"It's not the umpires," Greinke said. "I'm just not in the zone at the moment."
All year, actually. Close at times, but not quite there.
"He's getting his pitch count up a little bit," Yost said. "His command is off just a little bit. But he's out there battling and trying to get on the other side of that streak."
Greinke fell to 1-7 after allowing four runs and 10 hits while throwing 116 pitches in six innings. His ERA edged up to 3.60. In the AL that's not bad. It's just not dominant like his 2.16 mark in 2009.
"Not awful," he said, "but I made a couple of mistakes."
The biggest mistake was a hanging slider that Torii Hunter slammed 414 feet for a two-run homer in the fifth inning. The turned a 1-0 game into 3-0. Greinke also surrendered single runs in the second and sixth.
The run in the sixth scored when the Royals botched a potential inning-ending double play. The Angels had the bases loaded with one out when Howie Kendrick sent a sharp grounder to third.
Alberto Callaspo tagged third for the force and, rather than throw across the diamond, threw home. Kendall tagged the plate and moved away. Problem: Once Callaspo tagged third, it wasn't a force at the plate.
Frandsen scampered across untagged for a 4-0 lead.
"I didn't see him touch third," Kendall said. "It is what it is. I was screened by the runner, but I've got to make the play. I didn't."
Had Greinke been in top form, it would merely have kept him even because Angels starter Jered Weaver (5-2) permitted just four hits in seven shutout innings while striking out nine and walking one.
"He's a pretty darn good pitcher," center fielder Mitch Maier said. "And when he can command all of his stuff, he's tough. He's got a lot of deception—he's stepping over here and throwing over there.
"But it's no excuse. We've got to find a way to score runs."
This makes three straight starts, dating to May 18, since the Royals scored while Greinke was in the game.
"I was in a bunch of trouble today," he said. "Really, today is not that story. There are some games you could say that about, but not today."
"It's usually a strength when you don't let things affect you," he said. "But maybe I need to start taking it more personal and changing it up a little bit. It's been going on a while."