That was Greinke's latest accomplishment for the Royals on Sunday afternoon -- a one-hit, 3-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners while 30,286 fans watched his pitching clinic at Safeco Field. He upped his record to 13-8 and lowered his American League-best ERA to 2.32. He also boosted his season strikeout total to 202 with a mere five.
"He definitely proved today why he's in contention for the Cy Young Award," said the Mariners designated hitter Mike Sweeney.
Greinke became the fourth pitcher since 1900 to follow up a 15-K performance with a one-hitter. Vida Blue (1971), Randy Johnson (1998) and Pedro Martinez (1999) are the others.
Seattle's only hit came early, a lined single by Kenji Johjima in the second inning. After that, Greinke retired the last 22 batters he faced.
"Things kind of flowed good, attacking the zone early and making adjustments when they got on base," Greinke said. "A lot of balls were hit at people early on. And I started to pitch better the further along the game went."
Did he say getting on base?
The Mariners did that only in the second when Bill Hall drew a one-out walk followed by Johjima's two-out single that dropped in front of center fielder Mitch Maier. At that juncture, of course, there was no thought of a no-hitter -- just keeping the Mariners from being first on the scoreboard. And that's undoubtedly what would have happened if Maier had dove for the ball.
"They [teammates] were all messing with him," Greinke said, "but it was a smart play. Mitch is a smart player and a great outfielder. If he would have come in hard, more likely than him catching it, it gets by him and they score a run there and the whole game is a different story."
At any rate, Johjima noted that his hit really wasn't all that significant at the time.
|Zack Greinke followed up his 15-strikeout start on Aug. 25 with a one-hitter on Sunday. He is just the fourth pitcher to accomplish that feat since 1900:|
15 K's game
|Zack Greinke||Aug. 25, 2009||Aug. 30, 2009|
|Pedro Martinez||Sept. 4, 1999||Sept. 10, 1999|
|Randy Johnson||July 11, 1998||July 16, 1998|
|Vida Blue||July 9, 1971||July 16, 1971|
"That hit came in the second inning. If that hit had come in the eighth or ninth inning, people would have given me more credit," Johjima said. "I hit a cookie [two-seam fastball]. I hit if off the end of the bat and thought he may have a chance [of catching it]."
But Maier instead played it safe and held the runners at first and second.
"Second inning, runner on first with two outs if I come in and dive and miss it, they get things going," Maier said. "The way Zack's pitched all year, I keep that guy at second base and it's the smart play. He gets the next guy out."
And that third out came on a play that Greinke appreciated.
"Yuniesky [Betancourt] made a nice play on Jack Wilson to end the inning which helped out a lot and Billy [Butler] said the runner would probably score at home if he was safe. So it was a nice play. It was bang-bang, it wasn't easy," Greinke said.
This was the 19th one-hit game, in addition to four no-hitters, in history by the Royals. The last was on June 15, 1995, at Oakland by Mark Gubicza, the same guy that Greinke passed with his 15 strikeouts for a club record last Tuesday against Cleveland.
"Betancourt made a couple of nice plays to help out and [catcher Miguel] Olivo called a really good game. I really didn't shake much at all," Greinke said. "So that's how it was."
For a time, it appeared that Greinke decided to prove he could pitch a dominating game without a single strikeout. For 5 2/3 innings, he retired the Mariners strictly on a variety of fly balls, popups and grounders. Finally, his first strikeout of the afternoon came when Josh Wilson ended the sixth by missing a 1-2 curveball.
Then, in the seventh, he struck out both Sweeney and Hall to reach 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career. He's the fourth Royals pitcher to gain that plateau in a season, joining Dennis Leonard (244 in 1977), Kevin Appier (207 in 1996) and Bob Johnson (206 in 1970). Greinke ended the day with five to reach 202.
Comparing his 15-strikeout game to his one-hitter, he said: "This one's 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 and everything worked out good. But today everyone just played good behind me and a lot of balls were hit at people. The first couple innings balls were hit really hard and just happened to be at people which made it a lot easier."
Although Greinke knew the Mariners tended to be a contact-hitting team, it didn't mean he wasn't looking for strikeouts. Third baseman Mark Teahen noticed that as he'd toss the ball to Greinke after an out.
"Every time I was throwing the ball back to him after a guy put the ball in play with two strikes, you could tell he was a little ticked by it," Teahen said. "But it was fun to watch."
After being held scoreless for four innings by Mariners left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith, the Royals came up with a three-spot in the fifth inning.
Alberto Callaspo doubled just over the glove of left fielder Michael Saunders, who jumped in vain for the hard liner.
"I just misjudged it," Saunder said. "I came in and it kept going on me. I didn't lose it [in the sun]. When the ball got up in the air and was a pop fly you could lose it in the sun, but I just misjudged it. I wouldn't say it was a tough play. I just ran in on it and it kind of kept going on me."
It was a huge break for the Royals because, after Teahen tapped out and got Callaspo to third, Olivo dropped a soft liner into left field for the first run. Maier walked and, after a second out, David DeJesus hit another soft single to center and Olivo scored. When Rowland-Smith unleashed a wild pitch, Maier crossed the plate for a 3-0 lead.
And from a strikeout bonanza of 15, Greinke went to a hit famine of one.
"The obvious difference was the lack of strikeouts this outing although he had some and it took a while to get that going," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "But he's just a full-dimensional guy. He's overpowering, he misses bats, he uses his defense and that's what he did today."
And, from the opposite dugout, Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu was shaking his head in wonder.
"Just a clinic today," he said. "The guy was almost unhittable."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.