ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Somehow, the AL Central's last-place team also is one of the best in interleague play.
After the Kansas City Royals swept the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time since 2001, pitcher Zack Greinke guessed that players' unfamiliarity with the National League was probably helpful."Maybe we don't realize how good they are because we don't get to face them that often," Greinke said after combining with two relievers on a two-hitter in a 4-1 victory on Thursday. "We face American League teams all the time, so we know how good each team is."Mark Teahen missed the cycle by a double and had three RBIs for the Royals, who are 7-2 in interleague play -- with other road series wins at Florida and Arizona -- despite an overall record of 31-42. Manager Trey Hillman pointed out the punchless Cardinals were missing Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina and juggling the rotation due to injuries."That was nice, very nice," Hillman said. "We caught these guys at a good time. But we took advantage of it."The Royals won their fifth in a row and handed the Cardinals their first series sweep of three or more games of the season, with two one-run victories and a tight finale before Teahen's two-run homer off Chris Perez in the ninth.The Cardinals had won eight straight series with one split since dropping two of three to the Pirates at home May 13-15. They absorbed their first sweep since Sept. 12-14 at Cincinnati, and their first at home since the Mets routed them 20-2 over three games to open the 2007 season.Rick Ankiel homered for the Cardinals, who totaled only four runs in the series against a team that entered the finale 10th in the American League with a 4.46 ERA. St. Louis has scored three or fewer runs in six of eight games since Pujols went on the 15-day disabled list with a left calf strain."He's a major force that's not in your lineup, but this club against us has thrown a bunch of quality starts," manager Tony La Russa said. "Even with Albert, it's only one bat. We made a mistake, they hit it out of the park. Three days' worth."The Cardinals sold out the last five games of a 2-4 homestand with paid attendance of 44,277 for the finale.Greinke (6-4) didn't allow a hit until Ankiel's 11th homer with two outs in the fourth. He struck out seven, walked one and worked seven or more innings for the ninth time in 15 starts. The Cardinals had only three base runners during Greinke's stint and neither of the other two made it past first.Greinke had been 0-3 with a 6.10 ERA in five previous road appearances since his last victory May 18 at Florida. Ramon Ramirez worked a perfect eighth with a strikeout and Joakim Soria worked his third straight 1-2-3 ninth against the top of the order for his 18th save in 19 chances.The Cardinals' Jason Isringhausen, working his way back to the closer role after blowing six of 17 save chances, allowed two hits in 2 1/3 innings, two outs shy of his career high and his longest outing since his last three-inning stint on Sept. 9, 2001, against Tampa Bay when he was with the Athletics. Isringhausen has worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings since being activated from the DL on Saturday."I knew I might get some innings in today, so it was good," Isringhausen said. "I think it all depended on pitch count, and I was able to keep my pitch count down."Brad Thompson, whose rehab stint was cut short after Anthony Reyes went on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow strain, worked five solid innings in his first appearance since April 22. Thompson (1-2) allowed two runs on five hits, with all the trouble coming in the fourth.After the game, Thompson said he had been optioned to Triple-A Memphis, although general manager John Mozeliak said later Thursday that a move probably would not be made until Friday. The Cardinals could recall a long reliever, perhaps Mike Parisi, for a nine-game trip starting Friday at Boston."It was kind of a quick thing," Thompson said. "I didn't expect it to happen yesterday, anyhow. Blink and you might miss it, you know?"Left fielder Skip Schumaker caught Alex Gordon's drive at the wall to start the inning, and Jose Guillen singled, Mark Grudzielanek hit an RBI double and Teahen had an RBI single in succession for a 2-0 lead.Ankiel's homer to straightaway center in the fourth was only his second RBI during the six-game homestand, and also ended Greinke's 10-inning scoreless streak.
Greinke has allowed 14 homers, among the most in the AL. ... Thompson was 1-1 with a 7.27 ERA in two rehab starts covering 8 1/3 innings. ... Teahen is 8-for-17 in his last four games. ... Chris Duncan is 5-for-31 with one RBI since being recalled from the minors to play 1B after Pujols was injured.