Zack Greinke pitches Royals to 5-2 win over Yankees in what could be his career finale
Kansas City, Mo. — Zack Greinke tried to give Royals manager Matt Quatraro the ball when they met on the mound Sunday, just as the six-time All-Star had done so many times over the years, when he was departing for a reliever amid one of his 541 starts.
Quatraro gave the ball right back to him.
The famously reserved Greinke stuck it in his back pocket as he walked off the field, quite possibly for the final time in his big league career. And with help from a trio of home runs, and a Kansas City bullpen that held the New York Yankees in check the rest of the way, Greinke was able to enjoy a 5-2 victory and his 225th career win.
"He had a smile on his face," Quatraro said later. "He was appreciative of getting to come off, having the guys surround him on the mound. He was soaking that in, every inning looking to his family coming off the mound. I thought that was great."
Greinke even accepted a curtain call from a Kauffman Stadium crowd that first welcomed him to the big leagues 20 years ago.
The 39-year-old Greinke can become free agent after this season, and while he declined to say whether he plans to retire, the 2009 Cy Young Award winner has had a challenging year. His only other win came May 3 against Baltimore.
"I mean, everything about it was great," Greinke said, "and the last couple of months were a lot better than the first."
Michael King (4-8) had a forgettable finale to an otherwise excellent end of the year for New York. He'd allowed one earned run or fewer in his previous seven starts before serving up a trio of homers among eight hits that led to four runs Sunday.
Late-season revelation James McArthur got the final six outs for Kansas City for his fourth save.
"These guys have been trying to seize every day as an opportunity. More of them have gone our way as of late," said Quatraro, whose club snapped a 15-series losing streak to New York that dated to May 15, 2015. "I'm really happy for the fortitude they've shown, the work ethic to keep pushing. It would have been very easy for them to pack it up."
The Royals went 56-106, matching the franchise record for losses in a season. The Yankees finished 82-80, clinching a winning record for the 31st straight season with their win Saturday but still their worst since 76-86 in 1992.
Yankees star Aaron Judge, who did not play, stood at the dugout rail and stared at the field following the final out.
"We need to be playing this time of year, so that's the first thing," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "But again, you know, you take a little bit of solace just in how these guys continued to show up, continued to prepare, continued to compete all the way to the end, and played well down the stretch, when it wasn't necessarily an easy thing to do.
"We know we have to be playing this time of year," Boone added. "And that reality and disappointment certainly is upon us."
MJ Melendez tagged the first of the Royals' homers Sunday, all of which rode an early October breeze to left field, leading off the second inning. Nick Pratto drove in Dairon Blanco later in the inning to stake Kansas City to a 2-0 lead.
Edward Oliveras and Blanco added their home runs off King one batter apart in the fourth inning, and the Royals made it 5-0 in the fifth when Bobby Witt Jr. tripled leading off and Salvador Perez followed with a sacrifice fly.
The Yankees got two runs back in the sixth on Isiah Kiner-Falefa's two-out single off Taylor Clarke, but the Kansas City bullpen that had been so beleaguered all season shut them down the rest of the way.
"There's been a lot of guys that have taken some positive steps," Greinke said of the Royals, "and it's in a better place than it was at this point last year. But there's still got to be some guys getting better and some improvements being made."
Judge said before the game he's talked with owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman about what could change before next season. Judge also said he supports manager Aaron Boone leading the club into the future.
"We have a good group of guys in here. I'm excited to build off what we've got here," Judge said, "and if we can add a couple of more pieces down the road this winter, then we'll be in a good spot."
Witt became the first Royals player in the 30-30 club when he hit his 30th homer in the series opener, but he finished one steal short of becoming the fourth player ever in the 30-50 club. Witt was thrown out trying to steal second Saturday, then picked off first base Sunday, leaving him with 49 steals for the season.
The Royals had 1,307,052 attend home games this season, the third-worst total in the majors behind Miami and Oakland. Thanks in part to the pitch clock, and improved pace of play, that total still exceeded their attendance of 1,277,686 last season.
The Yankees play their spring training opener Feb. 24 against Detroit in Lakeland, Florida. The Royals play their spring opener the same day against Texas in Surprise, Arizona.
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