July 15, 2024

Velázquez homers, Zerpa shuts down Guardians as KC finishes sweep with 6-2 win

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Zack Greinke throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals Thursday, July 20, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

By DAVE SKRETTA AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Zack Greinke walked off the mound at Kauffman Stadium in the fourth inning Wednesday, acknowledging the ovation from a sparse late-September crowd, and then watched Royals reliever Angel Zerpa completely befuddle the Guardians the rest of the way in a 6-2 victory that wrapped up a three-game series sweep.
If it was Greinke’s last start for Kansas City, it certainly was memorable.
The 39-year-old former Cy Young winner allowed two runs on five hits while striking out five. And while he departed with two outs in the fourth, which meant Greinke didn’t qualify for his first win since May, he did earn his 1,094th strikeout over his two stints in Kansas City, moving him past Bret Saberhagen for fourth in franchise history.
“It’s been great to see him to what he’s been doing,” the Royals’ Bobby Witt Jr. said. “What he’s done has been awesome.”
It might not be done, either.
The Royals have talked about honoring Greinke during their final homestand, perhaps with a start in the season-finale against the New York Yankees. That could depend on whether Greinke’s elbow feels OK after he had trouble getting loose between innings Wednesday; the feeling he could only describe as “not normal” eventually resolved itself.
Asked about the departing ovation, Greinke replied: “It was cool.” But he refused to bite on any questions about his future beyond this season, including whether the six-time All-Star could be contemplating retirement.
Meanwhile, Zerpa (3-3) allowed three hits the rest of the way, striking out four without a walk. It was just the latest impressive performance by Kansas City’s bullpen, which has been responsible for their last eight wins.
Nelson Velázquez provided half of the Royals offense with his three-run shot in the first. He has 12 homers in 33 games since arriving in Kansas City, and 11 of those have been in Kauffman Stadium, where deep alleys and a 410-foot center field wall make it one of the most difficult ballparks in baseball to go yard.
Witt and Edward Olivares also drove in runs to help send the Royals on their final road trip having won six of their past seven games. That includes their first sweep of the Guardians since April 12-14, 2009.
“Certainly it’s way better than the alternative,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “Like we’ve talked about all year, I’ve been impressed with these guys and the way they’ve approached it. You know, by no means is anyone in there satisfied with what the total body of work is, but you can only play the games that are scheduled that day.”
Lucas Giolito (8-14) allowed four runs, three of them earned, on seven hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings for Cleveland. The rough outing came after the right-hander tossed seven innings of two-hit ball against Texas last weekend.
“Didn’t really have much of anything,” Giolito said. “Just like a grinder.”
Velázquez’s three-run shot, which came after Cleveland made errors on its first two defensive plays, made it 3-0 in the first. The Guardians got their only two runs across in the fourth, when Zerpa came in and shut them down to the finish
“We were set up for Greinke and then that kid Zerpa came in and really pitched well,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “We knew he was tough on lefties, but he got everybody out. He did a really good job.”
The Royals are expected to hire longtime Braves scout Brian Bridges as their new scouting director, though they have yet to make an official announcement. The move comes after new White Sox general manager Chris Getz hired Royals senior advisor Gene Watson and could be the start of several changes to Royals GM J.J. Picollo’s front office.
The Royals are pushing back a self-imposed deadline of the end of September for deciding on a location for their new ballpark. The club is deciding between a new location in Jackson County, where Kauffman Stadium currently sits, and a competing effort from neighboring Clay County. The stadium will be a part of a $2 billion development.
Guardians RHP Triston McKenzie (elbow) could return to the rotation Sunday against Baltimore. He allowed two homers while throwing 62 pitches in his second rehab start with Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday night.
The Guardians have yet to announce a starter for Thursday, when they begin a four-game series against the Orioles. The Royals also have not announced a starter for the opener of their trip Friday night in Houston.