Tigers have no answer for Greinke
Detroit held to three hits as Royals ace goes distance
KANSAS CITY -- To say the Tigers were operating on short rest Friday night is an understatement. That yawning dilemma was compounded by the fact that they had to face Royals ace Zack Greinke, who can put any hitter to sleep in a hurry.
Arriving at their Kansas City hotel shortly before 6 a.m. CT following a red-eye flight from Southern California, the Tigers never shook out the cobwebs in a 6-1 loss to Greinke and the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Jet lag, lack of continuous sleep and Greinke make for a bad combination if you're trying to put runs on the scoreboard. Even against rested foes, Greinke entered Friday's game with a 0.00 ERA in 20 innings this season. The ERA is still perfect, although the Tigers managed to scratch out an unearned run, thanks largely to Gerald Laird's hustle in the fifth.
Otherwise, it was all Kansas City as right-hander Rick Porcello surrendered a two-run homer to Mark Teahen in the first and a surprising solo shot to Alberto Callaspo in the second. It was the first homer by the diminutive Callaspo in 441 at-bats -- the longest streak by an active Major League position player without a home run.
With the Royals giving Greinke a 3-0 lead in the second inning, it was the equivalent of a good night lullaby for the groggy Tigers.
The only Detroit run came after Laird led off the fifth with a double. With out out, Josh Anderson lined to center and Laird, looking to make something happen, aggressively tagged up and took off. The relay throw from Kansas City shortstop Mike Aviles to third sailed astray and Laird got up quickly and scored.
Trailing 3-1, the Tigers couldn't keep any semblance of momentum as two wild pitches, a walk to No. 9 hitter Mitch Maier and a throwing error by first baseman Miguel Cabrera paved the way for a two-run Royals rally in the fifth.
Porcello allowed just four hits in his six innings, but the two early homers kept him from an outing that could have put more pressure on Greinke and Co.
"There's not a lot of teams, in my opinion, who would have beat Greinke tonight," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
The Royals moved a game up on the Tigers in the American League Central by getting a second successive complete game from Greinke, who surrendered just three hits, two coming off the bat of Laird.
"He made a couple of mistakes to me, and I just put some good swings on it," Laird said. "I feel like I've had some decent at-bats against him in the past, when I was with the Rangers. He's got good stuff. When you face a guy like that, you've got to go in there and battle and hopefully he makes a mistake."
Greinke had a franchise-best scoreless-innings streak snapped at 38 (dating back to last year) when Laird forced the issue on the bases in the fifth. But Detroit's three hits for the night represented a season low. Previously, the Tigers had collected eight or more hits in each of the first 15 games.
Leyland, therefore, was quick to tip his cap in Greinke's direction. Before the game, Leyland said no team in baseball should have to arrive at the hotel at 6 a.m, and then play a game that night. But after the game, he wasn't about to take anything away from Greinke by making the travel schedule an excuse.
"I wouldn't put that into the equation tonight," Leyland said. "I spoke my piece before the game about it. But I would never sit here and say it had anything to do with the outcome of the game tonight. Greinke dominated us."
The silver lining for Leyland was the progress that the 20-year-old Porcello showed.
"I was tickled to death with Porcello," Leyland said. In a lot of ways, I was happier with him tonight than I was when he got the win in Seattle. He found out the value of using his pitches and used them much more effectively tonight as the game went on."
Porcello may not have been scored on after the second if not for a freakish play in the fifth. With men at second and third and one out, Coco Crisp rapped a grounder to Cabrera, who threw home with Porcello scrambling to cover first. With Porcello crossing into the throwing lane, Cabrera's throw sailed away from Laird as two runs scored.
"I wanted to get over there as quick as I could, but at the same time, I didn't want to run into the throw if he was going to throw home," Porcello said. "I was kind of caught in-between and that may have messed him up a little bit."
Royals manager Trey Hillman saluted Porcello, as well as Greinke.
"It's easy to see why [the Tigers] are excited about that young man," Hillman said. "He's going to do a lot of great things."
Greinke already is doing a lot of great things with his 0.00 ERA in 29 innings.
"[Porcello] just hooked up with the hottest pitcher in the league," Leyland said.
The result: Good night, Tigers.
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.