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Greinke edged in duel with Dice-K

Greinke edged in duel with Dice-K

KANSAS CITY -- Forget for a moment the Matsuzaka-mania. Zack Greinke was making his own momentous start on Thursday afternoon.

Yes, Daisuke Matsuzaka was as good as advertised in his Major League debut, handcuffing the Royals on six hits and one run, while striking out 10 and walking only one in seven innings in a 4-1 Red Sox victory.

Greinke was making his first big-league start in more than year after leaving the Royals in Spring Training in 2006 for personal reasons. He was diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder, spent most of last season with Double-A Wichita and made just three relief appearances after a September callup.

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"I keep forgetting that it's been that long since I actually had a start," Greinke said.

Manager Buddy Bell said he was more anxious to see Greinke pitch than Dice-K.

"He's been through so much the last year with personal issues to overcome," Bell said.

While Greinke took the loss, he pitched extremely well, allowing eight hits, two runs (one earned), with one walk and seven strikeouts over seven frames.

"I'd be happier if we won the game," Greinke said. "It was disappointing. You expect to do good every time you go out there. If we won, I'd feel a lot better. Now we've got a losing record, so there's nothing to feel positive about at all."

Bell disagrees, believing there are a lot of positives out of not only Greinke's outing, but the Royals' starting pitching of Gil Meche, Odalis Perez and Greinke in the first three games.

"I was pretty impressed," Bell said of Dice-K. "He really had a feel for what he was doing. He was absolutely solid. He's really good. I think for a kid to throw like that in his first outing was pretty impressive.

"On the other hand, I thought our guy threw just as well. I don't think there's any question about that. It was a pitchers' duel from the very beginning. We weren't able to capitalize on the few opportunities we had. We'll take the start from Meche, the start from Perez and the start from Greinke. If we can do that all year, we'll be in pretty good shape."

Bell is more concerned about his offense that scored just two runs and collected 10 hits in the final two games of the series. The Royals have struck out 28 times, while drawing but seven walks in the three games.

Greinke, a 23-year-old right-hander who was the sixth overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, looks as if he is back.

"All that other stuff, I really haven't thought about [it] much," Greinke said. "I'm just trying to keep us in the game and win the game."

Catcher John Buck said Greinke "did exactly what you want your starting pitcher to do."

"He threw well," Buck said. "He was able to get ahead. His breaking ball was nice and sharp. His changeup looked well. And he controlled the inside and outside of the plate. When we needed to get some ground balls, we got them. His put away pitches are looking good and I think that's the key to him having those strikeouts.

"You could just tell that he's a lot more of an intense guy out there. He's into the ballgame. He's throwing well. What more can you say except he's doing a good job."

Greinke gave up a run in the first on a Manny Ramirez RBI double. Julio Lugo scored the other run off Greinke in the fifth on a Buck throwing error.

"I thought I started out a little slow, everything wasn't real crisp and wasn't doing exactly what I wanted," Greinke said. "After getting a little involved in the game, I started pitching a little bit better. I would always like to do better, no matter how good."

Greinke struck out David Ortiz three times, the first two times looking.

"I really didn't give him a pitch to hit," Greinke said. "That's hard to do, not to give one player a pitch to hit. I pitched Ortiz perfect. I couldn't have done anything better, not one pitch caught the plate. I thought I did a good job on Manny, too. I gave him one pitch to hit and he got a double."

Matsuzaka gave up a leadoff single to David DeJesus and the Royals would not get another hit until Alex Gordon's single, which was his first Major League hit, to leadoff the fifth.

DeJesus homered into the right-field bullpen on an 0-1 count to leadoff the Royals' sixth, but it was the lone run Dice-K would allow. After the tater, Esteban German singled, but he was thrown out stealing second on a call that manager Buddy Bell disputed. The call turned out costly, as German would have easily scored on Emil Brown's ensuing two-out double.

The Red Sox scored two runs -- one on a wild pitch and the other unearned after a Gordon error -- off Joel Peralta in the eighth.

"When you're not swinging the bats, you can't afford to make mistakes defensively," Bell said. "We can't win many games just scoring one run."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona believes Greinke could be on track for a big season.

"He's good," Francona said. "You're going to look up a few months from now and see a lot of wins with that kid. He can pitch."

Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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