Greinke becomes 5th pitcher to ring up 1,000 different batters

May 14th, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- noticed the Royals dugout was a little more excited than usual after he completed the fifth inning Saturday night as he walked through a swarm of his teammates applauding their veteran starter.

That was when Greinke realized the feat he had accomplished.

With his strikeouts of Brewers rookies Brice Turang and Joey Wiemer in the bottom of the fifth inning in the Royals’ eventual 4-3 walk-off loss at American Family Field, Greinke has now struck out 1,000 different batters in his career.

Only four pitchers in AL/NL history had ever done that entering Saturday night: Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux, as well as seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens.

Greinke, in his 20th Major League season, now joins that list.

“It’s pretty neat,” Greinke said in his typical, matter-of-fact way, saying he’s heard about the stat but that it didn’t cross his mind Saturday until he got into the dugout.

“They were a little more excited than normal,” said Greinke, who has 2,914 total career strikeouts to his credit. “I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what happened.'”

The Royals' bullpen could not hold the lead that Greinke exited with; Christian Yelich tied the game in the sixth off with his second homer of the night, and allowed the walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth.

But the loss did not diminish Greinke’s historic night.

“I can’t really process it,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “I’ve become enthralled with that stat since they told us about it. It’s just amazing to me to think about how many people that is – 1,000 is just a number, but when you think about how many different players that is over the course of 20 years is amazing to me.”

The ball that Greinke had struck out Wiemer with made its way from ’s glove around the infield -- and into the stands. Most Royals players were aware of the milestone Greinke was inching closer toward this season, but in the middle of a game they were leading at the time, they didn’t realize the importance of that strikeout.

When second baseman Michael Massey received the ball as he was running off the field, he did what he normally does: Throw it over the net and into the stands.

Perez quickly found the fan from the dugout, pleading with him for the ball in exchange for a different ball. The fan understood and made the swap.

“I told him that I appreciated it,” said Perez, who homered in the fifth inning, just a day after he sat with blurry vision. “Most fans would keep the ball.”

Greinke has racked up many milestones in his career, including surpassing 500 career starts and 50,000 career pitches thrown last season. He entered Saturday just two new victims shy of striking out 1,000 different batters in his career. There were four Brewers in the lineup he had never struck out: Turang, Wiemer, Owen Miller and William Contreras.

Greinke allowed two runs in five innings Saturday, walking none and striking out five. He fanned Yelich, Jesse Winker and Rowdy Tellez, all batters he’s already struck out.

Then Greinke led off the fifth by striking out Turang looking at an 89.9 mph fastball on the outer part of the plate. With two outs, Wiemer battled Greinke in a longer at-bat, but on the seventh pitch, Greinke threw an 89.5 mph elevated fastball. Perez pulled it down enough to convince home plate umpire Tripp Gibson of a strike. 

And with it, Greinke padded his Hall of Fame resume.

“I’m super happy that I was behind the home plate,” Perez said. “I know that he’s going to be a Hall of Famer after he’s done with his career. … I thank God to be available to catch a Hall of Famer and see him every day as a teammate. It’s something that we all should be proud of, we all should be happy that we have a Hall of Famer around here.”

In a season meant to evaluate the young players the Royals have on their roster, Greinke remains the steady veteran as he puts the finishing touches on his career. Now 39 years old, he is not the same pitcher who debuted with the Royals in 2004 or won the AL Cy Young Award in ‘09.

But he’s still finding a way to get outs. One-thousand unique batters can attest to that.

“He’s super smart,” Perez said. “Every time he goes to pitch, he prepares himself really good. I hope the young guys follow what he’s doing. He’s always ready and likes to compete.”