Short trip, huge honor for Hillman, Greinke
Pair make All-Star debut; righty strikes out pair in AL victory
ST. LOUIS -- Zack Greinke treated his first All-Star Game appearance like it was a regular game. But as great as he has pitched over the season's first half, few of his outings have gone as quick as this.
"It was a lot like just a regular game out there," Greinke said. "But [the inning] was real short, and it was like, 'Is it really over already?' It was cool, though, still."
It was much the same for his manager. While Greinke pitched a perfect fourth inning out of the bullpen, part of a string of 18 straight batters retired by American League pitching, Royals manager Trey Hillman coached on AL manager Joe Maddon's staff during their 4-3 victory over the National League squad.
Though it was a short trip for both, just an afternoon's drive or a short flight to the other end of the state from Kansas City, the experience might as well have been a world away.
"It's a tremendous honor," Hillman said. "It's just something that's quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So you have to slow it down a little bit, take it in. It's very busy, very hectic. But the electricity with all the people, it's outstanding."
Greinke was a candidate to make the start for the American Leaguers before the honor went to Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay. Greinke ended up pitching in relief, making his first appearance at Busch Stadium since June 19, 2008.
Once he entered, following Halladay and White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle, he made quick work on the National League's 5-6-7 hitters. Raul Ibanez fouled out to to third baseman Michael Young on the first pitch. David Wright battled four straight fastballs, each one a little harder than the previous, before Greinke dropped in a nasty slider over the plate that froze Wright for a called third strike.
"I was trying to get him to put it in play," Greinke said, "and it didn't work out. Then I had to throw him a strikeout pitch when the situation called for it. I threw him a fastball on 0-2 and he fouled it off, so I was like, 'All right, it's slider time.'"
From there, Greinke moved ahead of Shane Victorino before unleashing another slider, this one in the dirt, which sent down Victorino swinging. Catcher Joe Mauer finished off the out by throwing to Mark Teixeira at first base.
Much of the game, in fact, seemed to flow at a fast pace. Buehrle was so efficient in the third inning, as was Ryan Franklin in the top of the fourth, that Greinke had to scramble.
"I barely got loose in time," Greinke said, "because the inning went so fast. I was like, 'Dang, somebody get on base.' And then Joe Mauer got a hit that gave me a little extra time."
Once Greinke was done, he could just sit back and admire his AL pitching teammates. Far from getting ready to leave, he watched the remainder of the game from the dugout as what was a well-pitched game became an intense one.
"It got a little intense the last couple innings," Greinke said. "Right around the eighth is when it started. Everyone was watching [Mariano] Rivera, anytime he's in games like that."
For that matter, he was watching Felix Hernandez, Jonathan Papelbon and Joe Nathan set it up for Rivera.
"That [bunch] could be why there were no [NL] runs scored [after the second]," Greinke marveled.
The evening capped what was a busy couple days for the AL Cy Young Award candidate, which included not only a chance to meet the president, but also a little chatter. As President Obama made his way through the American League locker room, shaking hands with each player, Greinke took notice of his White Sox jacket.
"I should've told him the White Sox are terrible," Greinke joked. "Instead, I told him Jermaine Dye got robbed. He should've been on the All-Star team. He agreed."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.