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Greinke simply scintillating vs. Sox

Greinke simply scintillating vs. Sox

KANSAS CITY -- Zack Greinke was simply superb again.

Greinke pitched six scoreless innings for his 15th victory, as the Royals defeated the Red Sox, 5-1, on Tuesday night in front of 21,228 energetic fans at Kauffman Stadium. It was Kansas City's 12th win in its past 15 games.

Obviously, Greinke did nothing to tarnish his American League Cy Young Award credentials as he stymied the Junior Circuit's presumptive Wild Card club. He lowered his Major League-leading ERA to 2.08.

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When all the analyzing and verbalizing was finished afterward, he put his performance into simple terms.

"It wasn't amazing," Greinke said, "but it was a good outing."

Because Greinke was starting for the first time since being drilled in his pitching arm by a line drive in Detroit, manager Trey Hillman planned to be cautious with him. And when Greinke closed out the sixth inning with his pitch count up to 91, his outing was over.

No argument from the pitcher.

"It just didn't feel as good coming out in the last inning," Greinke said. "It wasn't pain, it just wasn't sharp. A little bit like Spring Training when you're not ready to go a 100 pitches and you get tired faster."

The Royals' first inning had to be a shock for Greinke, whose run support this season has been to the lean side -- 3.7 runs per start. This time, his teammates gathered up five runs in the first against Red Sox starter Paul Byrd.

The first five batters reached base -- David DeJesus and Mitch Maier each singled, Billy Butler and Mike Jacobs each walked and Alberto Callaspo singled -- and all of them scored. That had not happened at the start of a game for Kansas City since Aug. 29, 2007, against Detroit.

Oddly enough, Greinke also was the starting pitcher in that 5-0 victory over the Tigers, although he pitched only the first four innings. At the time, Greinke was just being weaned back into starting after spending most of the season in the bullpen. So he was pulled after 71 pitches and didn't get the decision (Ryan Braun got the win).

Anyway, this time, the Royals sent nine batters to the plate in the first inning.

"David squared the first ball up and that always gives you a little bit of adrenaline, and then Mitch executed the hit-and-run perfectly," Hillman said.

And away they went. Byrd threw eight consecutive balls to walk Butler and Jacobs, forcing in a run. Callaspo's single scored another run as did Mark Teahen's groundout. Then, after the second out, Alex Gordon looped a two-run single to left.

"We've been hot lately," Greinke said. "Tough inning for Paul Byrd. He made some good pitches that didn't work out for him, and he had to come over the plate with pitches behind in the count and things were falling."

In an ironic touch, Greinke became the first Royals pitcher to win 15 games since Byrd posted 17 victories for them in 2002. That was the year that Kansas City signed Greinke.

"I went to one of his games right when I got signed," Greinke said. "He and Mark Buehrle threw a complete game, I think, and someone hit a home run in the ninth, so he would've got that win, too, probably."

Greinke, after giving up a double to Dustin Pedroia in the first inning, retired the next eight batters. There were three walks, but not another hit until Victor Martinez singled in the sixth, extending his hitting streak to 21 games.

"He had everything. That's impressive," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Velocity. Maybe the best slider in the game. Occasional changeup. You see it on TV, and we've certainly seen it before. Seeing it firsthand, that was impressive stuff."

In his six scoreless innings, Greinke gave up just two hits, with three walks and five strikeouts for a season total of 229, just 15 shy of Dennis Leonard's club record. He has 11 consecutive scoreless innings, and by throwing 9 1/3 more, he could get his ERA under the 2.00 mark.

Lowering a 2.08 ERA, of course, is not easy to do.

"You could give up two runs and it'd be an amazing game and it'd still go up," Greinke said.

The two hits off him were the only hits for the Red Sox, but there was a bit of drama at the end. Reliever Roman Colon, after a perfect seventh inning, issued two walks in the eighth and gave up one run on a groundout before ending the threat.

With a four-run lead, Jamey Wright came on for the ninth. He walked David Ortiz on four pitches and got two strikeouts, but then Butler botched an easy roller down the first-base line.

"I just missed it. The ball just squirted out of my glove," Butler said.

Now, there's a reason for some teeth-gnashing and anxiety.

So with two runners on base, Hillman called for closer Joakim Soria for the third day in a row. Perfect. Pinch-hitter Mike Lowell swung at his first pitch and flied out. Soria had his 28th save, and Greinke was firmly in the AL Cy Young chase.

"I don't think there's anybody better, I think the numbers bear that out," Hillman said.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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