"It cannot be glory every day, you know," said his catcher, Miguel Olivo.
Greinke, a pitching wonder in the first quarter of the season, did not take the loss as the Royals stumbled, 8-3, before the Indians on Thursday. An unusually large weekday afternoon crowd of 23,095, many of them undoubtedly stricken by "Zack flu," turned out at Kauffman Stadium.
The fans did not see the virtually perfect Greinke, who had fashioned a 7-1 record and a 0.60 ERA in his eight previous starts. What they got was not that bad, although Greinke was his own most severe critic.
"Just stupid, really stupid," he said.
Even though his control was not razor sharp and his pitch choices were not the best, Greinke still departed after six innings with the lead, 3-2. The bullpen just was unable hold on.
By the time Greinke got through an eight-batter third inning in which the Indians scored both runs off him, he'd already expended 60 pitches.
"His command just wasn't what it's been for his other starts, and, as a result of that, he ran deep in counts and that caused some of the laboring," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "He didn't get hit around a lot."
Greinke forced the Tribe to strand runners at third base in each of the first two innings. Ben Francisco came close to striking the first home run off Greinke this season, but it bounced off the top of the left-field wall, just over David DeJesus' glove. Francisco got a two-out triple, but he was left on.
The third inning was a real chore. Four singles, including RBI hits by Victor Martinez and Shin-Soo Choo, gained the Indians a 2-2 tie with one out. A walk to Jhonny Peralta loaded the bases, but Greinke reached deep and got two strikeouts to end the inning.
"It was really stupid pitching for that whole inning probably," Greinke said. "I started throwing two-seamers to get ground balls, and that's not really how I pitch. Then I got behind everyone because I was throwing the two-seamer, and then Olivo came out and said, 'Stop that pitch and go back to how you normally pitch. Maybe you should have done it a couple batters earlier.'"
Greinke threw 25 more pitches in a scoreless fourth inning, bringing his count up to 85. When he reached 103 pitches after six innings, Hillman decided to take him out.
"The last three games haven't really felt real good out there. Everything is not coming out as smooth as it was earlier," Greinke said before giving credit to the Indians.
"I think the difference was they took good approaches the whole game and made it a grind all game long."
At Los Angeles, where he lost, 1-0, Greinke noticed the Angels took an extremely patient approach for three innings and then seemed to abandon it. Then, against Baltimore, the Orioles followed the same pattern. The Indians, however, remained steadfast.
"Today, the Indians just kept doing it all game long and made it difficult," Greinke said.
Greinke gave up eight hits, seven of them singles, and the two runs nudged his ERA up to a mere 0.82. He had eight strikeouts and now has 73 in 66 innings.
Hardly stuff over which to despair.
Trouble was, the Royals' offense sputtered late. Kansas City got two runs in the first inning on back-to-back doubles by Alberto Callaspo and Billy Butler and Jose Guillen's RBI single. They took the 3-2 lead in the third as DeJesus singled, stole second and scored on Mike Jacobs' single.
But nothing more developed against starter Carl Pavano and the Indians' bullpen -- even after Matt Herges loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth. Rafael Betancourt quelled that disturbance on a foul pop and a double-play ball.
The Royals' bullpen also sputtered. Horacio Ramirez relieved Greinke for the seventh and gave up two hits, the last an RBI single by Choo that tied the score at 3.
"He hit a ball up the middle," Ramirez said. "Bad pitch, good hitting."
Right-hander Jamey Wright replaced lefty Ramirez, and Peralta rifled a double that carried over Guillen in right field for a 4-3 Cleveland lead. Things got worse in the eighth, when the Indians scored four runs as Asdrubal Cabrera and Martinez each clocked two-run doubles. The first came off Juan Cruz, while the second was against Ron Mahay.
Cabrera had four hits in the game and is on an 8-for-19 tear. Martinez kept his Major League-leading average at an even .400.
And Greinke, after a brilliant start to his season, was stalled at seven victories.
"Today I really felt good," he said. "I probably just pitched dumb."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.