"I was thankful to get to manage today," Hillman said. "You don't want to go out on a seven-game losing streak, that's for sure."
And he didn't.
Zack Greinke and the Royals made a long-overdue drive onto victory lane. After seven straight losses, the Royals rose up to defeat the Cleveland Indians, 6-4. After seven straight starts without a win, Greinke finally got his first one this year.
With the Kauffman Stadium crowd of 28,361 alive with screaming kids attending School Day at the K, there was finally good reason for noise. This was Greinke's first post-Cy Young Award victory, and it ended the Royals' longest skid since 10 straight last July.
How were Hillman's emotions as he watched this unfold?
"I wanted to appreciate it and I wanted to win," Hillman said. "I didn't want to go into an eight-game losing streak."
And before he headed for the door, Hillman discussed the last of his 152 victories with the Royals.
"Zack had more reach-back velocity. We saw it in the first inning after the leadoff triple," Hillman said. "Zack had more of what we saw last year, and that makes me real hopeful for the rest of the season for him and for the Royals."
Among Cy Young winners, Greinke was one of the slowest to record his first victory after an award-winning season. He's now 1-4. Only Frank Viola, the 1988 winner, lost more decisions in the following year before winning -- "Sweet Music" was 0-5 for Minnesota in 1989 and then beat Boston. Like Greinke, 2005 winner Bartolo Colon went 0-4 in his next injury-plagued year before posting a win for the Angels.
Greinke ran up a lot of pitches early and yielded three runs in the third inning but then settled in and eased through six innings. By then he'd thrown 112 pitches and he gave way to the bullpen.
"I thought we had a lot of good at-bats against Greinke," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We were able to get his pitch count up and do what we wanted to do."
Alberto Callaspo's three-run homer off left-hander David Huff pulled the Royals even at 3 in the fourth inning. David DeJesus led off with a single and Jose Guillen walked before Callaspo put a drive over the left-field wall. It was his sixth homer and gave him a club-high 22 RBIs.
Hillman also noted that the next three runs all came on two-out hits, a commodity often lacking.
"That's been one of the thorns in our side here most recently," he said.
The Royals gave Greinke a 5-3 lead in the fifth inning. Yuniesky Betancourt doubled and, after two outs, DeJesus looped a single to center and got him home. Billy Butler followed with an RBI double to deep right-center.
Mitch Maier's two-out single and Betancourt's second double added a sixth run in the sixth.
The Indians picked up one run against Robinson Tejeda in the eighth on Asdrubal Cabrera's RBI single, his third hit. Dusty Hughes got the final out of the inning when Callaspo, rushing hard into foul ground, made a back-to-the-infield catch of Grady Sizemore's popup.
Joakim Soria pitched a scoreless ninth to notch his eighth save.
"We played good today. Defense and everything was good," Greinke said.
Then came the word that Hillman was dismissed.
"There's never a good time. No matter what, it's going to be awkward and it's going to feel like it's the wrong time," Greinke said.
Will the change to Ned Yost as a manager make a difference?
"I don't know. We'll see," Greinke said. "We need to start winning."
As Hillman knows only too well.
CY YOUNG FOLLOW-UP
|Cy Young Year||NL||AL||No. of decisions in following year before first win|
|1964||Dean Chance||0 -- although he did blow a save before getting his first W|
|1966||Sandy Koufax||Retired after '66|
|1967||Mike McCormick||Jim Lonborg||McCormick: 2; Lonborg: 3|
|1968||Bob Gibson||Denny McLain||Gibson: 0; McLain: 0|
|1969||Tom Seaver||Denny McLain/Mike Cuellar||Seaver: 0; McLain: 2; Cuellar: 0|
|1970||Bob Gibson||Jim Perry||Gibson: 1; Perry: 1|
|1971||Ferguson Jenkins||Vida Blue||Jenkins: 2; Blue: 3|
|1972||Steve Carlton||Gaylord Perry||Carlton: 1; Perry: 0|
|1973||Tom Seaver||Jim Palmer||Seaver: 2; Palmer: 0|
|1974||Mike Marshall||Catfish Hunter||Marshall: 1 (also had one SV); Hunter: 3|
|1975||Tom Seaver||Jim Palmer||Seaver: 0; Palmer: 0|
|1976||Randy Jones||Jim Palmer||Jones: 1; Palmer: 1|
|1977||Steve Carlton||Sparky Lyle||Carlton: 1; Lyle: 0 (also had 1 SV)|
|1978||Gaylord Perry||Ron Guidry||Perry: 0; Guidry: 1 (also had 1 SV)|
|1979||Bruce Sutter||Mike Flanagan||Sutter: 1 (also had 4 SV); Flanagan: 1|
|1980||Steve Carlton||Steve Stone||Carlton: 0; Stone: 0|
|1981||Fernando Valenzuela||Rollie Fingers||Valenzuela: 0; Fingers: 1|
|1982||Steve Carlton||Pete Vuckovich||Carlton: 1; Vuckovich: Earned no wins, made only 3 starts|
|1983||John Denny||LaMarr Hoyt||Denny: 1; Hoyt: 0|
|1984||Rick Sutcliffe||Willie Hernandez||Sutcliffe: 0; Hernandez: 0 (also had 1 SV)|
|1985||Dwight Gooden||Bret Saberhagen||Gooden: 0; Saberhagen: 0|
|1986||Mike Scott||Roger Clemens||Scott: 0; Clemens: 2|
|1987||Steve Bedrosian||Roger Clemens||Clemens: 0; Bedrosian: 2 (also had 12 SV)|
|1988||Orel Hershiser||Frank Viola||Hershiser: 1; Viola: 5|
|1989||Mark Davis||Bret Saberhagen||Davis: 2 (also had 5 SV); Saberhagen: 0|
|1990||Doug Drabek||Bob Welch||Drabek: 3; Welch: 1|
|1991||Tom Glavine||Roger Clemens||Glavine: 0; Clemens: 1|
|1992||Greg Maddux||Dennis Eckersley||Maddux: 0; Eckersley: 1 (also had 5 SV)|
|1993||Greg Maddux||Jack McDowell||Maddux: 0; McDowell: 1|
|1994||Greg Maddux||David Cone||Maddux: 0; Cone: 0|
|1995||Greg Maddux||Randy Johnson||Maddux: 0; Johnson: 0|
|1996||John Smoltz||Pat Hentgen||Smoltz: 1; Hentgen: 1|
|1997||Pedro Martinez||Roger Clemens||Martinez: 0; Clemens: 0|
|1998||Tom Glavine||Roger Clemens||Glavine: 3; Clemens: 0|
|1999||Randy Johnson||Pedro Martinez||Johnson: 0; Martinez: 0|
|2000||Randy Johnson||Pedro Martinez||Johnson: 0; Martinez: 0|
|2001||Randy Johnson||Roger Clemens||Johnson: 0; Clemens: 0|
|2002||Randy Johnson||Barry Zito||Johnson: 2; Zito: 0|
|2003||Eric Gagne||Roy Halladay||Gagne: 0; Halladay: 2|
|2004||Roger Clemens||Johan Santana||Clemens: 0; Santana: 0|
|2005||Chris Carpenter||Bartolo Colon||Carpenter: 0; Colon: 4|
|2006||Brandon Webb||Johan Santana||Webb: 0; Santana: 0|
|2007||Jake Peavy||CC Sabathia||Peavy: 0; Sabathia: 3|
|2008||Tim Lincecum||Cliff Lee||Lincecum: 1; Lee: 2|
|2009||Tim Lincecum||Zack Greinke||Lincecum: 0; Greinke: 4|
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.