Taxed 'pen loses steam behind solid Greinke

May 25th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- did what he usually does. It was five innings of one-run pitching for the veteran right-hander on Wednesday as he rolls right along in his 20th Major League season.

Had the Royals been able to put a fully loaded bullpen behind Greinke against the Tigers, the formula may have been just right. But after going all-in with its primary bullpen pieces through the opening two games of the series, Kansas City suffered a sixth-inning glitch that led to a 6-4 loss to Detroit at Kauffman Stadium. Left-hander came on for Greinke in a 1-1 game and had runners at first and third with one out when right-handed-hitting Zack Short came off the bench to deliver a telling blow.

Short’s three-run homer to left-center put Detroit ahead to stay and reinforced the notion that Kansas City is going to need more length from an injury-plagued starting rotation so that the bullpen doesn’t have to pick up a plethora of innings on a nightly basis.

Brady Singer only worked 3 2/3 innings in the series opener. Mike Mayers, who generally operates out of the bullpen, was excellent in a spot start on Tuesday. But Mayers finally wavered in the fifth after a strong 4 2/3 innings. Greinke then held the Tigers to a Riley Greene solo homer through five, but he needed 91 pitches to get those 15 outs.

“A lot of the stuff was pretty sharp,” Greinke said.

But the riddle for Greinke is trying to determine how to go deeper into the game on fewer pitches.

“I haven’t really figured it out, if there are a lot of foul balls or what,” Greinke said.

The Kansas City bullpen went from the fourth inning until the 10th before giving up runs on Monday and then backed up Mayers with lockdown relief work on Tuesday. But Short’s pinch-hit three-run blast gave Detroit a measure of revenge against the Royals’ bullpen.

Still, it was another outing for Greinke in which he was able to keep the opponent’s run production to a minimum.

“He got extended there in the third, which cut into the chance of him going deeper,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “But his stuff looked good. He kind of reinvents himself every night.”

The Royals were battling uphill after the sixth, but they managed to put pressure of their own on Detroit’s bullpen. Vinnie Pasquantino had three hits and reached base four times.

“I felt good at the plate, felt like I had a solid approach,” Pasquantino said. “But I’m disappointed in the loss, so that’s the main focus.”

The Royals also received a two-hit night from Maikel Garcia, who has been capitalizing on the opportunity to stake his claim for the third-base job. Garcia had five hits over the final two games of the series.

“He’s got a good approach,” Quatraro said of Garcia. “He uses the whole field, more to right than left, but he can pull the ball, too. He’s got whip in the barrel. It looks like he can get to multiple pitch types in multiple locations.”