Greinke pitches 5 scoreless innings, Royals beat Guardians

Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Zack Greinke pitched five scoreless innings of three-hit ball and the Kansas City Royals slowed the Cleveland Guardians 5-1 on Sunday.

A day after the Guardians got a season-high 23 hits in a 13-1 romp, Greinke (3-5) and four relievers combined on a five-hitter.

“You never know how a team will respond, but to watch this team, the guys just come back and play really hard,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “I thought they did a real nice job all the way around today and Zack set the tone for us and his stuff was really sharp. He put everything where he wanted to today.”

Greinke struck out five and walked one in his 222nd career win.

“I think (Greinke) kind of out-veteraned us,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “He started by expanding with that breaking ball down and then got into the game and got his rhythm down with everything and just spun it off his fastball.”

In the third inning, Greinke threw his 50,000th total pitch in the majors. Now in his 19th season, the 38-year-old righty became the 17th pitcher to reach that feat since 1988, when pitch count data became available. Justin Verlander is the only other active player to reach the mark.

“It is pretty neat,” Greinke said. “I don’t really pay attention to many of those, but it sounds like a high number. The 500 career starts were more interesting to me but it was pretty cool.”

Said Matheny: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a stat on how many pitches a pitcher has thrown.”

“That’s a lot and I guarantee that’ll be his answer but I love watching this guy pitch. What he’s doing in our clubhouse and how he competes in the high-level expectation he has for himself is almost unrealistic, but that’s part of what makes him so great,” he said.

MJ Melendez drove in two runs and Andrew Benintendi extended his on-base streak to an AL-best 19 games. Benintendi hit an RBI single in the fifth and Melendez had a two-run single later in the inning.

Kyle Isbel and Nicky Lopez also had RBI singles for the Royals.

Zach Plesac (2-6) gave up three earned runs and six hits in five innings. He began the game with a 6-0 record against the Royals in 11 career appearances.

“It was frustrating,” Plesac said. “You feel like you’re in control the whole inning and then things start happening and unraveling and you just want to continue to execute in those moments.”

“When you get a chance to get out of there you just got to execute pitches. This was a big game, series tied, rubber match and we had to bring the energy today and this was a game to win so, yeah, it hurts,” he said.

Owen Miller recorded the lone extra-base hit for Cleveland and scored on a wild pitch in the ninth.

The win snapped a streak of six straight rubber-game losses at home for Kansas City dating to last Sept. 5.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Guardians: 1B-OF Josh Naylor was scratched from the starting lineup with lower back discomfort.

Royals: 2B Whit Merrifield was removed from the game at the start of the fifth inning with right toe discomfort. Merrifield holds the longest active games played streak in the majors with 553.

“I didn’t even see it, but I guess as he broke towards the line on a ball he pushed off and felt something and came back in,” Matheny said. “His X-ray came back negative, but he’s getting an MRI today.”

ROSTER MOVES

Royals: RHP Jonathan Heasley (right shoulder tendinitis) was placed on the 15-day injured list and LHP Foster Griffin was recalled from Triple-A Omaha in the corresponding move.

UP NEXT

Guardians: RHP Cal Quantrill (4-5, 3.86 ERA) will open Cleveland’s eight-game homestand against AL Central foes, starting with a four-gamer against the Chicago White Sox.

Royals: Kansas City will continue its homestand with a four-game series against Detroit with a twinbill on Monday. RHP Brad Keller (4-9, 4.37) will start Game 1 and LHP Daniel Lynch (3-7, 4.95) is expected to take the mound in Game 2.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.