The KC Royals have not been a paragon of competitive baseball this season, but that is something pitcher Zack Greinke shouldn't be used to. The Royals have never had a winning season when Greinke was on the roster, whether from 2004–2010 or the past couple of years. Still, the 2009 Cy Young Award winner continued to keep his composure in a way only Greinke can do. The body language can be stoic, the answers short and sharp, or even a subtle smile that hides his true emotions. Regardless of the situation, Greinke always manages to maintain his composure. That is why fans were surprised by his remarks following a June 23 loss.
KC Royals pitcher Zack Greinke didn't look himself after a recent loss.
"I didn't strike out enough guys, and that's what happens," Greinke said. "You always have to make pitches, and there's never really an at-bat I feel like I'm completely in control anymore. The stuff's just not nasty enough for that to be the case."
Greinke had a rough game and struggled to find his rhythm on the mound against the Tampa Bay Rays. He lasted only 4 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs on nine hits with only three strikeouts. Only 47 of Greinke's 82 pitches were strikes, the worst ratio for him this season. It was an outing to forget for the 20-year veteran. His postgame interview, courtesy of Bally Sports Kansas City, showed Greinke with his head hanging low and responding in a defeated tone. That is something fans are not used to seeing, even after a tough performance from him.
That loss sank Greinke to a new low, at least for his road performances. In his previous 25 starts on the road, Greinke has not won a single decision. Plus, his .111 winning percentage would be the worst in his career by a wide margin. The righty is not the rotation's best pitcher by any means, logging a negative Win Probability Added (WPA) in four straight starts. Greinke has quickly fallen from Opening Day starter to a volatile starter for the already struggling Royals.
His candid postgame responses put some doubt in my mind. Outside of wanting 3,000 career Ks, what is keeping Greinke going? He is 57 punchouts away from the milestone, but it's clear that his passion for the game and desire to continue competing is what truly drives him. After the June 23 game, that passion and desire were visibly absent. Was his recent performance just a blip on the radar or a sign of something more concerning? Was Greinke on the cusp of a mid-season retirement, something that even St. Louis Cardinals legend Albert Pujols considered last year? His manager Matt Quatraro doesn't seem to think so. He spoke with 610 Sports on Wednesday and had some answers.
“By no means is he defeated; he’s a super competitive guy," Quatraro said on Fescoe in the Morning. "I’ve had conversations with him since that game – he’s himself. He’s ready to go for tomorrow. But yeah, at the end of that night that was a frustrating game for him and for us. Everybody that’s in that locker room cares about the outcome and what’s going on, and they take a lot of pride in what they’re doing. It’s probably just the raw emotion of how he felt after that game.”
You can listen to the entire segment with Quatraro on 610 Sports here.
Greinke is the projected starter for Thursday's rubber match with the Cleveland Guardians. He is an entirely better pitcher in Kauffman this year, sporting a 3.77 ERA and 1.186 WHIP in eight starts at home. Let's hope that we get a Greinke that can hold his head high postgame, rather than the defeated one fans saw on Friday.