The Yankees got their first look at Zach Greinke tonight, and man, he was impressive. Greinke is a good-looking kid with blond hair. He looks more like a surfer or a skate board kid than a pitcher. (Actually, he reminds me a bit of a young Mark Langston.) A right-hander with a simple, direct motion, the ball comes out of Greinke's hand easily. He is composed and cool on the mound, keeping his fastball down in the strike zone for the most part; the kid has an effective change up and a very nasty slow breaking ball. In the first inning, Greinke threw Jeter a full-count fastball and Jeter lined out sharply to short. Rodriguez followed and he saw the breaking ball on a full count, got way ahead of it, and popped out to left. The YES cameras showed Jeter in the dugout laughing at his pal. Say what you will about Jeter, but I don't know that I've ever seen a player of his caliber enjoy himself as much, or laugh and smile as much as he does.
Greinke and Mike Mussina engaged in a pitcher's duel through the first five innings. They were both in control; Mussina was more efficient (he threw 97 pitches on the night). With two men out in the top of the fifth, Bernie Williams—who turned 36 yesterday—drew a walk on a full-count pitch. I believe it was a fastball, inside at the knees. Though it was called a ball, it looked like a strike from where I was sitting. Greinke and his catcher thought it was strike three as well and they started toward the dugout. Howver, Greinke walked too far, prompting the home plate umpire Doug Eddings to walk to the mound and remind him that although he's mad talented, he is still just twenty years old. The Royals manager Tony Pena sprinted out to the mound to monitor the conversation, which was brief.
Perhaps the incident was enough to throw Greinke off his game just a bit. He hung a curve ball to John Olerud who slapped it into right for a single. Miguel Cairo followed and worked a walk to load the bases. Then Jeter lofted a single to shallow right. It barely fell in for a hit, Williams and Olerud scored, and Cairo was thrown out on a close play at the plate.
Greinke pitched a one-two-three sixth and he was done. Those two runs would be all that Mike Mussina needed, though they scored two more in the eigth thanks to an RBI double by Alex Rodriguez and an RBI single by The Punisher, Gary Sheffield. In short, Mussina was brilliant. He was spotting his fastball—which had some hop to it—and his knuckle-curve equally well. Mussina ended up pitching eight innings, striking out a season-high eleven batters. Flash Gordon retired
the Royals in order in the ninth. It was a brisk game, taking just two hours and twenty-five minutes. What a difference a night makes. Eddings' had a liberal strike zone—aside from that 3-2 pitch to Bernie—and after each foul ball, he threw a fresh ball back to the pitcher as if he were a middle infielder turning a double play.
Jason Giambi was in the line-up and it was hard to get a feel for how he looked, though he didn't seem anxious. He got ahead of the count in the first and hit a breaking ball to the warning track, just missing a dinger. Greinke struck him out the next time up on a lollypop curve. In his third at-bat, Giambi lined out to center on the first pitch, and he walked in his final at-bat in the ninth.
The Bombers gained a game on Boston who fell to Tampa Bay at Fenway Park tonight. Scott Kazmir out-pitched Prince P. The Yankee lead stands at four; three games in the loss column.