Updated: September 24, 2008, 12:37 PM ET

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AP Photo/ Steve Ruark

Zack Greinke is ending his season on a flourish, going 4-1 with a 2.18 ERA in September.

Regal performance
Zack Greinke's performance down the stretch exemplifies the phrase "quietly effective."

While it hasn't drawn a lot of attention since the Royals stopped playing meaningful games a long time ago, fantasy owners certainly have noticed, as Greinke is going to anchor more than one team to a title.

The Royals right-hander threw shutout ball for a second straight start on Tuesday, blanking the Tigers on the road over seven innings. He allowed just six baserunners while striking out four, despite claiming after the game that he didn't have his best stuff.

Going past the 200-inning plateau for the first time in his career has made no difference for Greinke, who turns 25 next month. He has posted six straight quality starts, with a 1.60 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in his past eight trips to the mound. For the season, he has struck out 183 batters in 202 1/3 innings, including more than one batter per inning since the All-Star break, and will get one more trip to the mound on Sunday.

Greinke clashed heavily with then-pitching coach Guy Hansen in 2005. Hansen wanted to put his own stamp on Greinke and make him more of a command pitcher who tried to hit spots, and it turned into a disastrous season. Greinke then missed virtually all of 2006 with well-documented personal issues.

Those problems are behind him, and Greinke is fulfilling his potential by getting back to what made him successful -- throwing every pitch as hard as he can. It doesn't matter what pitch it is, Greinke lets it go, with its natural movement, and trusts his ability to do the rest (during the '05 disaster, he was taking velocity off to try to do other things with his pitches). For some pitchers, less is indeed more, but Greinke is not one of them. Expect more of the same next season.

Past editions: 9/23: Price is right | 9/22: Yankee Stadium finale | 9/21: Cubs, Rays clinch

Box Score Bits
Johan Santana keeps living up to his reputation as a better second-half pitcher, striking out 10 over eight innings of two-run ball to pick up win No. 15 on Tuesday. Santana's 2.34 second-half ERA is half a run lower than his first-half mark. ... Prince Fielder's walk-off homer kept the Brewers alive in the playoff hunt. He's hitting .312 with six homers this month following a long power drought. ... Miguel Cabrera, who had left Monday's game with a sore back, returned to the Tigers lineup and went 1-for-4. ... Jed Lowrie went 0-for-4, and is batting .108 over his past 10 starts. ... In his first big league start, journeyman Alfredo Simon allowed three runs in 7 2/3 innings, but he's not recommended in any format. ... Lastings Milledge had three hits, three RBIs and a stolen base, as he continued his hot second-half hitting. He's batting .307 since the break with seven homers and 11 steals, and could be ready to take another step up next season. His teammate Ryan Zimmerman is also swinging a hot bat, batting .304 in the second half. We should see more power output next year as he gets further removed from his shoulder injury this season. ... Jason Kubel went yard twice, and has quietly hit 20 homers this season to go along with a .276 batting average. He's slugging .509 in the second half. ... Sean Marshall struck out seven in five innings of work, allowing two runs in place of Rich Harden, who has been pushed back to Thursday. It's worth noting he's going to get one more start in the season finale, and he's worth a play if you need it. ... Ryan Shealy hit his seventh homer in 16 games since being called up at the beginning of the month, and is batting .305 as he seeks to secure at least part of the first base job for the Royals next season. ... Troy Tulowitzki had four hits, including a homer, and is batting .321 since July 1, giving us good reason to think he will bounce back strong next season. ... Mike Napoli homered and stole a base, and is hitting .338 since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 9. ... J.P. Howell picked up his third save of the season in the second game of the Rays' doubleheader, while Dan Wheeler was used to close out the opener. ... Cole Hamels is finishing strong, allowing two earned runs over seven in a loss to the Braves. The southpaw has allowed more than two earned runs just once in his past 10 starts, even as he goes past the 220 mark in innings pitched. ... It wasn't a horrible start for Cliff Lee, but he dropped to 22-3 by allowing five runs in seven innings, although he did strike out eight. He'll start the season's final game Sunday. ... Although Mike Mussina got the win for the Yankees with five shutout innings, Jesse Litsch pitched well in defeat, allowing two earned runs over seven and striking out eight. He has six quality starts in seven outings since returning from the minors, posting a 2.00 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. ... Edinson Volquez struck out nine to pick up his 17th win, allowing one run in 7 1/3 innings in his best outing in more than a month. He had allowed four runs or more in four of his previous five outings. ... Jack Cust hit a homer, and despite a .231 batting average, has now hit 31 homers on the season, to go with a .373 on-base percentage. ... Slowing down? Hardly. Ryan Ludwick hit homer No. 35 on Tuesday, and is batting .301 with 14 homers in the second half. He's not going to be just a one-year wonder if he stays healthy. ... Tim Lincecum saw his Cy Young chances take a bit of a hit in allowing six runs over 4 1/3 innings to the Rockies, although he did strike out nine to push his season total to 252. He just had problems finding the strike zone in this one. There are no health issues, and he will make his final start on Sunday.


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Standing Out
HEY, NINETEEN
Mike Mussina, Yankees
Mussina allowed four hits and struck out six in five shutout innings to reach 19 wins for the third time in his career, but he has never won 20. He will look for his first career 20-win season in Sunday's season finale.

NOT UP TO THE CHALLENGE
Javier Vazquez, White Sox
After manager Ozzie Guillen challenged him to step up his game, Vazquez went out and allowed five runs on seven hits over just four innings in a key matchup against the Twins.
News and Notes

If it's a must-win game, it is possible Ben Sheets could take the ball for the Brewers on Saturday if his elbow feels up to it. CC Sabathia starts Wednesday on three days of rest, and will do so again on Sunday if needed. ... J.D. Drew (back) took batting practice on Tuesday following a recent epidural, and he may appear in some games before the end of the regular season. ... Manager Joe Torre said the team likely will test Takashi Saito in a save situation sometime this week. ... Derek Lowe's next start has been pushed up to Friday, and Chad Billingsley may have his innings limited against Tim Lincecum on Sunday as the Dodgers start to setup a playoff rotation. ... Alberto Callaspo was a late scratch on Tuesday with a sore thigh and is day-to-day. He's in the midst of a 16-game hitting streak. ... The Jays have shut down starter David Purcey. ... A specialist has recommended surgery for a compressed nerve in Chris Carpenter's shoulder, casting doubt on his effectiveness for 2009. He should be ready for spring training, but he's a big question mark heading into next year. ... Brandon Moss needs knee surgery, so the Pirates have shut him down for the season. Steve Pearce, who homered Tuesday, will get some additional playing time this week. ... Adam LaRoche (hamstring) could return to the lineup Wednesday. ... Carl Crawford (finger) took swings off a tee on Tuesday and felt no pain. He could get a start or two this weekend to prepare him for the playoffs. ... Geovany Soto is out of the lineup for a few days to rest a bruised left hand. ... Yunel Escobar's hamstring injury hasn't improved much, and there is still no timetable for his return to the lineup. ... Kurt Suzuki is day-to-day with a sore hip after a home plate collision on Monday.
They Wrote It

"The Yankees failed to make the playoffs this season, in large part because the team is paying for its inability to generate young talent, as the Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays and others have been able to do. Instead, at the end of the 1996-2001 dynasty, which was built largely on homegrown talent such as Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and [Jorge] Posada, the Yankees began a period of free spending on veteran free agents, a habit that often exacerbated their player development problem and increased their reliance on older players."


-- Buster Olney Full story
Transactions
• The Brewers activated Russell Branyan and Yovani Gallardo from the disabled list. Gallardo is expected to start one of the final games of the season for the Brewers, despite not having swung a bat or run the bases after having surgery for a torn ACL. He has been cleared to pitch, although manager Dale Sveum had not set his rotation following CC Sabathia's turn Wednesday. Questions about how deep Gallardo can pitch into a game may keep him from being a big fantasy factor even if he does make a start. In keeper leagues, you obviously want to take this opportunity to stash Gallardo away if that is possible, as he can be a top starter next season. Branyan is not a fantasy factor.