Zack Greinke came ever so close to throwing a no-hitter. All that stood between him and the no-no was Kenji Johjima’s soft single to center in the second. Royals center fielder Mitch Maier was content to let it drop in front of him, which was probably the smart play at the time, with two outs and a runner on first. But I thought at the time,and still do, that if he had charged the ball hard, he could have caught it.
Here’s what Maier said: “If there’s no one on base and we’re winning 3-0 in the eighth inning and he’s got a no-hitter _ yeah, I’m diving. I still don’t know if I would have caught it. But I’d definitely be trying to catch it.
“I was thinking later, `I’ll really feel bad if that’s the only hit he gives up today,’ but at the time a no-hitter wasn’t going through my head.”
Greinke (shown above being congratulated by catcher Miguel Olivo after the shutout), backed him up. Greinke, by the way, scored major points today in his Cy Young efforts, at the expense of, among others, Felix Hernandez. Just think what a no-hitter would have done.
“They’re all messing with him, but it was the smart play,” Greinke said. “Mitch is a smart player and a great outfielder. If he had come in hard, more likely it gets by him and they score a run there and the whole game is a different story. He’s smart. He knows what he’s doing out there.”
Greinke is the one who knows what he’s doing out there. Here’s how he assessed his outing:
“Things just kind of flowed well. I was attacking the zone early and made adjustments once they got on base. A lot of balls were hit at people early on. Later on, I started to pitch better. Betancourt made a couple of nice plays to help out.”
Comparing it to his 15-strikeout game last outing against Cleveland, he said: “This one was a lot of luck and a complete team effort. The other one was as good as I could pitch and as nasty as I could be. That day, everything worked out well. Today was just a matter of everyone playing well behind me and a lot of balls were hit at people. The first couple of innings, a lot of balls were hit really hard. They just happened to be at people.
“This team has a bunch of contact guys, so it’s hard to (strike out) guys. They also hit fewer home runs, so you attack them more. You don’t waste your energy in trying to strike them out because their bats are so (quick).”
Michael Saunders owned up to misjudging the ball by Alberto Callaspo in the fifth that sailed over his head for a double and led to the Royals’ three-run inning that beat Ryan Rowland-Smith. The sun had nothing to do with it.
“It kept going on me,” he said. “I just misjudged it. I don’t want to say it was really a tough play. I just ran in on it, and it kind of kept going on me. I misread it.”
Rowland-Smith turned in one of the best games of his career. He had never gone eight innings before. The seven strikeouts matched his career high. He gave up just five hits,and retired the last 10 in a row. He just matched up with the wrong guy.
“I thought Rowland-Smith did an outstanding job,” Mariners’ manager Don Wakamatsu said. “From where he’s gone from spring training to now is pretty impressive. I know it’s a career high in innings. To go eight innings, 113 pitches, I thought he was just as strong at the end. He did a nice job with all this pitches.”
But, again, it was Greinke’s day.
“It was really a clinic today,” Wakamatsu said. “He was almost unhittable to me. You go into a ballgame like this, offensively, with a guy that struck out 15 in his last appearance. Really, the only way you beat a guy like that is try to get his pitch count up, but it’s hard when he strikes out 15 the game before. You don’t want to get deep in counts with him. You look up in the board in the last inning, on his 113th pitch, it’s 96 mph. And with that he compliments it with a 65, 66 mph curveball with command. It’s one of those days you tip your cap to that kid, because he was awfully, awfully impressive.
“On the flip side of that, I was awfully impressed with Rowland-Smith. Other than the fifth inning, you don’t know how that game is going to come out. You’re almost hoping for a nothing to nothing ballgame to get Greinke out of the ballgame. I’d have to say that performance was the best I’ve seen all year, no doubt.”
The Mariners actually broke a two-game winning streak against pitchers that threw a one-hitter against them. The last was the Yankees’ Ted Lilly on April 27, 2002. The Mariners won that game, 1-0. Before that, the last one-hitter against them was by Charlie Hough of Texas, Aug. 15, 1989. The Mariners won that game, too, 2-0. On June 3, 1989, Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan of the Rangers beat them 6-1 on a one-hitter. And before that, Willie Fraser of the Angels one-hit them on Aug. 10, 1988, in a 2-1 Angel victory. So the last pitcher to beat them on a one-hit shutout was actually Dave Stewart of the A’s, 2-0, on Aug. 4, 1988 in Oakland.
(Photo by Associated Press)