MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Slowey is insistent: He doesn't let one start carry over to the next, whether it's a success, a failure or just so-so.
Good advice for Zack Greinke.Greinke was hit hard again and the Kansas City Royals never recovered from their first-inning deficit in a 7-3 loss to Slowey and the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night."I liken it to a hitter going through a slump," Royals manager Ned Yost said, expressing little concern about the reigning Cy Young Award winner. "You find ways to work your way through it and work your way out of it. He's a guy that works real hard. As soon as it was over, he was on the video looking at it. He'll work his way out of it."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."He's always given us trouble," Kubel said of Greinke. "For me he was always getting me on sliders down and in, and I was able to foul a couple of those off today."Greinke's ERA surpassed 4.0 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."Usually a bad game is like three runs, and they've been five-, six-, seven-run games," he said. "I don't know where that's coming from. Not getting out of innings. Usually it's two outs and the inning's over, and not lately."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. He has an 0.87 ERA over this current three-start streak."I'm being honest with you. ... Every start is its own challenge," Slowey said, citing advice from pitching coach Rick Anderson. "There's no reason to combine starts and say, 'I've had two good ones.' This is important to have another good one."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 last year's form.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.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. Rookie Danny Valencia had three hits."It's hard to give up six runs," Greinke said, adding: "It's hard to do, and I've done it a bunch in the last month."
Twins shortstop J.J. Hardy, who played four seasons under 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 right-hander 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.