Errors mar Greinke's start, expose Royals' youth

June 7th, 2023

MIAMI -- For four innings on Tuesday night, Royals right-hander was up to his old tricks: keeping the Marlins off-balance and off the scoreboard.

But in the fifth inning, some of Kansas City's inexperience came into play to turn what was an otherwise smooth Greinke start into a disappointing 6-1 loss to red-hot Miami at loanDepot park. The Royals have dropped the first two games -- and thus the series -- to the Marlins, who are on a five-game winning streak.

The outcome didn’t reflect how effective the 39-year-old Greinke was, though. Over 4 1/3 innings, Greinke allowed five runs -- just one earned -- on four hits and three strikeouts.

“He does what he always does,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “He throws a ton of strikes. He mixes it up. Completely unpredictable. Uses both sides of the plate. That’s every single time out.”

Greinke didn’t allow a hit through four innings. The lone baserunner Miami had was Jorge Soler, who reached via error when first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino made an underthrown flip to Greinke on a routine grounder.

Miami’s first hit came on Greinke’s first pitch of the fifth inning, a curveball that Jesús Sánchez sent over the wall for an opposite-field home run.

Then, things began to spiral. Joey Wendle and Jean Segura delivered singles, with Segura advancing to second on a fielding error from left fielder Edward Olivares. With the infield in, Miami catcher Nick Fortes chopped a grounder to shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., who opted to flip the ball to third baseman Maikel Garcia in hopes of catching Wendle off the bag. But all runners were safe on the fielder’s choice, loading the bases with no outs.

Greinke struck out Jonathan Davis, but an RBI single from Luis Arraez ended the starter’s night at 77 pitches. 

“Just kind of bad timing,” Greinke said. “There’s a big string of hits at the same time. I really don’t think I made a lot of mistakes that inning. First, the home run, [it] was kind of the game plan I wanted to do -- to throw quality curveballs. And he hit a home run, which was impressive. All the other pitches were corners, I think they got hits on. You can’t do too much more.”

Bryan De La Cruz delivered the crushing blow in the inning, a three-run double off reliever Jackson Kowar.

Those three errors, two of which contributed to the Marlins’ five-run fifth inning, and a wild pitch that allowed Miami’s sixth run to score, sank the Royals.

“It’s focus,” Quatraro said. “It’s concentration. It’s doing the little things consistently. It’s taking the out or giving the out. Keep the double play in order, those kinds of things. It usually just comes down to focus.” 

As the Royals build around a young roster, Greinke provides stability to the rotation, as well as leadership in the clubhouse.

“Whether it’s five, six, seven innings, whatever it is, you can count on him to keep you in the game,” Quatraro said. “Being able to control all the stuff going on around him. Not just facing hitters. He’s great with the run game. He’s great at fielding his position. Calm demeanor. Just all of that. The intangibles that come with it. More so than anything, he gives us a chance every night because he can game plan for any team.”

In his 20th season in the Majors, Greinke has continued to be one of top pitchers of his generation.

Greinke is also a former teammate of Marlins manager Skip Schumaker; they both were with the Dodgers in 2013.

“One of my favorite teammates that I ever had,” Schumaker said. “Maybe the smartest player I’d ever played with, other than [Yadier Molina].”

In an age of high velocity and power arms, Greinke offers a refreshing change of pace. On Tuesday night, the veteran averaged 89.6 mph with his sinker and 73.9 mph with his curveball.

Schumaker insists there’s places in the sport for crafty pitchers, like Greinke, who rely on execution over velocity.

“Absolutely they can, because if you make the right pitch in the right location, it’s still the game, it’s location,” Schumaker said. “There’s only so many guys who can out-stuff you in the big leagues. You can throw 100 mph, but if it’s not in the right location, there’s a good chance a Major League hitter will catch up to it. Zack Greinke knows how to pitch.”

Schumaker recalled playing second base during a Greinke start.

“I remember playing second base behind him, and he would tell me to move over a couple of feet, a double play would be hit to [me],” Greinke said. “I moved over a couple of feet, and a double play was hit to me. He’s that smart.”