There will come a time when starts like Zack Greinke had for the KC Royals Monday night raise red flags. After all, the Diamondbacks, the team for which Greinke won 55 games from 2016-2019 and played for more than any other except Kansas City, showed him no mercy, and by beating him 9-5 wrecked the start of the Royals’ nine-game road trip.
Greinke, handed the ball by Manager Mike Matheny for the ninth time this season, struggled from the beginning and turned in his worst performance since Kansas City gave him $13 million back in March to return to the club he broke in with and gave the first seven years of his almost certain Hall of Fame career.
Ironically, Greinke’s subpar pitching came on an evening when the Royals, already infamous this year for the lack of run support they afford him and reeling from an embarrassing loss to Minnesota Sunday, pounded Arizona starter Zack Davies for three first-inning three home runs (one each by Whit Merrifield, Bobby Witt Jr. and Hunter Dozier) to take a 4-0 lead before Greinke had thrown a pitch.
Unfortunately, Greinke didn’t take advantage of the early hospitality afforded him by his own team and the Diamondbacks.
Zack Greinke didn’t look like the good starter he’s been for the KC Royals.
Greinke, who entered Monday’s contest still looking for his first win, a quest made that much more difficult by Kansas City’s propensity not to score when he pitches, dug his own hole in the first inning. Daulton Varsho slapped his fourth pitch of the night for a double and, just moments later, Pavin Smith homered to cut the Royals’ lead in half. Christian Walker homered two batters later to trim KC’s original four-run advantage to one.
Ironically, Greinke struck out every other Diamondback he faced in the first.
Greinke’s troubles returned in the third. His one-run margin enlarged to two because the Royals scored once in the second, he nevertheless walked Smith and Ketel Marte to begin the inning, gave up an RBI single to David Peralta, and surrendered a game-tying run on Jake McCarthy’s groundout.
The fourth wasn’t pretty, either. Grayson Greiner’s one-out single, Varsho reaching on a fielder’s choice, and a walk to Smith caused Matheny to replace Greinke with Joel Payamps, who allowed Marte to double home the runners Greinke put on and remained responsible for. That made it 7-5 and gave Arizona the lead it didn’t relinquish.
For Greinke, Monday’s start was the worst of the season. He failed to make it out of the fourth inning for the first time this year. The four walks he issued equaled the number of free passed he’d given up in his previous eight starts combined. He hadn’t allowed seven earned runs in a game since Sept. 14 of last season; in fact, it was only the second time he’d done so since Opening Day of 2019 when he was pitching for the Dbacks.
How worried should the KC Royals be about Zack Greinke after Monday night?
Not much. Not much at all. For the most part and despite his 0-3 record, Greinke has pitched well so far. Opponents have tagged him for more than three runs only three times and he’s held them to just one another three. He’s not the strikeout pitcher he once was, but he’s walking less than two batters every nine innings (1.5 BB9) and his 1.301 WHIP is certainly acceptable.
Greinke also knows pitching, how to adjust when not every pitch in his eclectic repertoire (four-seamer, sinker, slider, cutter, curve, changeup) is working, and how to get batters out without blazing speed.
So the Royals don’t need to fret about Greinke, at least not yet. Yes, he’s 38 and much more of his career is behind and not in front of him, but he’s giving them much of what they signed him to do. Only if Greinke’s efforts begin to resemble Monday night’s more than those starts that preceded it should Kansas City worry.
The Royals and Diamondbacks finish their short two-game series tonight at Chase Field with Jonathan Heasley (0-2) squaring off against Zac Gallen (3-0). First pitch is scheduled for 8:40 p.m. CDT.