MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -With their middle relief in shambles, the Kansas City Royals need Zack Grienke to be almost perfect to have a chance to win these days.
Too bad for them that he hasn't looked anything like his Cy Young-winning self early this season.
Greinke walked five in just five innings, getting out-pitched by Scott Baker in the Royals' 10-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Friday in the first night game at Target Field.
Greinke (0-2) gave up six hits and four runs - two earned - with five strikeouts. After giving up four earned runs in his first eight starts on his way to the AL Cy Young Award last year, Greinke has already given up seven earned runs in three starts this season.
``I just think my mind's not right on how to pitch because every game I've been able to throw the ball close to where I want,' said Greinke, who went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA last season in one of the best years by a pitcher in franchise history. ``I'm just not getting the job done.'
Baker (2-1) looked like the real ace on a cool night under the lights at the new ballpark. He gave up two runs and seven hits with six strikeouts and no walks against a Royals lineup that entered the game leading the American League with a .307 team batting average.
With the ballpark glowing beautifully under a pitch black sky, Michael Cuddyer had two hits and three RBIs and the disciplined Twins lineup forced Greinke to throw 108 pitches to get through five innings.
``Our game play against Greinke is hope he has an off night,' said Orlando Hudson, who had two hits and two RBIs. ``He is not a fun guy to face.'
Yuniesky Betancourt had three hits, including a 420-foot solo homer to center field, and two RBIs for the Royals.
After a pedestrian first two outings by his impeccable standards, Greinke couldn't find the plate in the first inning against the Twins. He walked Denard Span and Hudson to start the game, but the Twins let him off the hook when Joe Mauer rolled over to second on a fielder's choice and Justin Morneau chased an eyebrow-high fastball for strike three.
``It's the first time I've ever seen that out of Zack,' Royals manager Trey Hillman said of the five walks, which hasn't happened since Greinke walked seven in a start in June 2008. ``They were pretty patient, as they should have been, because he wasn't commanding.'
Greinke ran into more trouble in the third and couldn't get out of it this time. He issued four-pitch walks to Mauer and Morneau to load the bases, then threw a 2-2 fastball right down the middle to Cuddyer, whose double made it 2-0.
``We made Greinke really work tonight, which is huge,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``We took a lot of pitches and that's a good thing because you're going against one of the best pitchers out there.'
In a game that featured several outstanding defensive plays, including three great catches by Kansas City left fielder Scott Podsednik, a Royals error in the fifth doomed Greinke. With two on and one, Cuddyer hit a grounder to third that should have started a double play. But second baseman Willie Bloomquist dropped the throw from Alberto Callaspo and everyone was safe.
Greinke then walked Jason Kubel to force in a run and Delmon Young's sacrifice fly made it 4-1. His season high for walks in a game last year was four.
``That should be two month's worth of walks,' Greinke said.
The Twins put the game out of reach with a five-run eighth off the beleaguered Royals bullpen, which has an 8.33 ERA this season. Hudson had a two-run double off Robinson Tejeda, who was charged with four earned runs in the frame.
``This is kind of uncharted territory for us, watching (Greinke) not command the ball any better than he has,' Hillman said. ``He's just got to get on the attack.'
NOTES: Royals 2B Chris Getz was a late scratch with tightness in his right oblique. ... The Royals all wore No. 42 on Friday night in honor of Jackie Robinson because they were off when the rest of the league did it on Thursday. ... Twins 3B Nick Punto (groin) will be out a day or two and LHP Jose Mijares (elbow) is also day-to-day. RHP Pat Neshek's right middle finger continues to bother him and manager Ron Gardenhire said he could be headed to the disable list if it doesn't improve soon.
The Associated Press News Service
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