After getting shutout by a washed-up Jose Contreras, it seemed like the Royals had hit a low point for the year. Indeed, as documented by Will, yesterday's game may have been the worst nine-inning event of the year. If it wasn't, it sure as heck felt that way; lately, with the Royals on the losing end of most of their recent games, it seems the mood here has fallen from "we're a team on the upswing" to "here we are, losing again in September. Who cares that we might be better next year? Right now this stinks." I'm not referring to anyone specifically. Suffice to say that recent arguments about Buddy Bell's positive influence on Alex Gordon, Bell's flagrant neglect of Huber and Brazell, Bell's management of the bullpen...well, Bell's not a good manager, really he's not, but recently he's been the topic of choice for everyone to vent their frustrations. He's been bad in a lot of ways, and I won't defend him. As grudz's diary says, there's only nine more days of Bell's tenure. There's precious few games left in the season, so we all might as well try to enjoy them. What? You say it's hard to enjoy a shut-out by Jose Contreras? That this team has given up? That Dayton Moore isn't what he's cracked up to be? Wow, this is snowballing a bit...
Enter Zack Greinke. Eight innings pitched. 101 pitches, 75 strikes. Two hits allowed. Zero runs. Ten strikeouts. Who cares if Yankees-Red Sox got top billing on the 6 PM EST SportsCenter (on a day where neither team played...), Zack was dynamite on the mound today when everyone on the team and, indeed, us Royals Reviewers, needed a shot in the arm. Step back a moment from the Royals' 66-86 record and just think how crazy cool it is that Zack Greinke is pitching lights-out ball in the starting rotation after all the kid has been through. Since moving back into a starting role, Zack has allowed four earned runs twenty-nine innings pitched. He K:BB ratio after today is 25:8 over the same time period. Yeah, okay, it's the White Sox. They can't hit very well at all. Greinke would've shut down the Yankees the way he was pitching today. At this point, you have to like his chances to force his way into the rotation in 2008.
Anxiety problems? Since a very rough start that bounced him from the rotation the first time around, Greinke sure as heck hasn't shown anything on the field that suggests he wants to hide under the mound. In pitching a full season this year, he's beat the odds laid out for him after almost completely losing last year. Greinke has suffered at the hands of his own anxiety as recently as 2006, had problems meshing his approach with the pitching coach's suggestions as recently as 2005, and lost his starting spot at the beginning of 2007. You could be forgiven if you'd gone lukewarm or worse on Greinke's chances since his sparkling rookie season.
A successful trip to the bullpen and a September resurgence later, Zack's reminding us all that there sure as hell was something there to get everyone excited about him in the first place. Plus, in case you forgot, the dude turns 24 in October. In a time where perhaps we're all a little too caught up in the misery of the present instead of looking forward to the bright future, Greinke's performance today showed us Royals fans that there's fun to be had at the baseball park right now. Zack Greinke, I salute you.
Special thanks on this piece goes to Joakim Soria for displaying his usual ass-kickery in the ninth inning, sealing the "W" for Zack.