MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Zack Greinke was hit hard again, and the Kansas City Royals never recovered from their first-inning deficit in a 7-3 loss to Kevin Slowey and the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
It was 13 up and 13 down for the Royals to start against Slowey (7-3), who surrendered two sharp singles in the fifth before center fielder Denard Span finished the inning with a long sprint to catch Mitch Maier's drive at the wall to preserve a 5-0 lead.
Jason Kubel homered and hit a two-run double in the first inning to give the Twins a 3-0 lead, and Span added to it with a two-run single in the fourth. Matt Guerrier got the last out for the save after right fielder Michael Cuddyer dropped a routine fly ball and Jose Mijares gave up two unearned runs.
Greinke's ERA surpassed 4 for the first time this season, up from a league-leading 2.16 last year and the highest it's been since Aug. 9, 2008. Greinke (1-8) needed 102 pitches to get through five innings, allowing nine hits and six runs.
Slowey went seven shutout innings, his first outing without an earned run in 39 starts — all the way back to July 28, 2008.
He yielded three hits without a walk for his third straight quality start after notching only one of those in his first nine turns this season. That appearance, on April 20 against Cleveland, was the only time he completed the sixth inning until posting an 0.87 ERA over this current three-start streak.
This three-start stretch is his best since June 2008, in terms of innings logged and runs allowed.
Manager Ron Gardenhire spoke before the game about how Slowey has recently found his rhythm: "They've got to be quality strikes. You can't just pitch to contact."
Though Greinke has had a handful of strong starts, he's still trying to get in that groove and is nowhere near his Cy Young Award form of last year.
The Royals haven't helped him out much, though, failing to score for 22 straight innings while he's on the mound. They have scored three runs or less in eight of his 13 starts this season.
Greinke's teammate Brian Bannister even expressed his sympathy toward Greinke and fellow starter Luke Hochevar after Bannister was the winning pitcher on Sunday: "They don't need to waste it all on me. Zach and Hoch have outpitched me this year. They deserve more."
The Royals fell 10½ games behind the first-place Twins, who are 19-9 at Target Field. Their hitters have been frustrated by how many long flyballs their new ballpark is holding, particularly to the power alleys and straightaway center field, but Kubel wasn't deterred.
NOTES: Twins SS J.J. Hardy, who played four seasons under current Royals manager Ned Yost in Milwaukee, said he found it easier to appreciate Yost after he was fired by the Brewers late in the 2008 season. "I never could figure him out — if he liked me, if he hated me. Now looking back at it — I liked him." ... Royals RHP Gil Meche (bursitis in his throwing shoulder) played catch before the game and is feeling better, according to Yost. "Still feels it a little bit in the front of his shoulder, but nothing like it was. So we're making progress," the manager said. Yost, however, doubted Meche would be ready to rejoin the rotation when he's eligible to come off the DL later this week. ... Gardenhire talked before the game about first-round draft pick Alex Wimmers and his pitch-to-contact control, which fits with organizational philosophy. "We'll take that guy who throws 98, too. ... But the only way to get high in the draft is to get the manager fired," Gardenhire quipped. ... Yost said he'll stick with Jason Kendall hitting second in the lineup and Mike Aviles batting seventh for the time being because Kendall is more selective and Aviles is more aggressive.