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‘Student of the Game’ Zack Greinke Notches Win in 500th Start

Hitting yet another career milestone, Greinke capped things off with a victory on Wednesday.

After dropping four games in a row, the Kansas City Royals finished their home series against the Texas Rangers with a narrow 2-1 victory.

In the win, it was Kansas City's youth that put runs up on the board. Catcher MJ Melendez and outfielder Kyle Isbel were the lone Royals to drive in runs, although that pair was enough to get the job done. The pitching, on the other hand, was spearheaded by 38-year-old Zack Greinke. 

Greinke, coming off his first win of the 2022 season last week, made his 500th career start on Wednesday. Facing a Rangers lineup that hung eight runs on Kansas City the night before, the veteran was excellent in six innings of work. He needed 90 pitches to get through that slate, allowing just four hits and a lone run stemming from a solo shot by Leody Taveras. 

Greinke saw his ERA drop to 4.38 after his second-consecutive quality start, and he now has back-to-back wins for the Royals after not recording one with the club for over a decade. After the game, Royals manager Mike Matheny tipped his cap to Greinke for a job — and career — well done thus far.  

Jun 29, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Zack Greinke (23) throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

"Going back to that number (500), that's something to be really, really proud of," Matheny said. "Just seeing the numbers that are out there, where he's getting to in strikeouts... we're watching something very special."

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Of Greinke's 500 career starts, he's now notched 62 victories with Kansas City compared to 71 losses. His 19-year career has been filled with plenty of failure and triumph, including winning an American League Cy Young Award with this very team way back in 2009. After years away and stints with the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros, Greinke singled out the Royals as the franchise he wanted to play for this season. 

The initial returns on Kansas City's investment have been mixed, as Greinke got off to a scorching start to the season before seeing his production slip and a stint on the Injured List come into play. Since recovering from his right flexor strain, however, Greinke has looked fantastic and continues to tweak the offerings of his pitch mix in an effort to get a leg up on the competition. He can no longer rely on velocity; he's a deception-based thrower now who possesses an innate amount of composure and control. Matheny praised Greinke for working so tirelessly, even after nearly two decades in professional baseball. 

"Just a guy that goes out and figures it out," Matheny said. "We talk about him being a student of the game — I don't think I've ever seen anybody more so a student of the game more than what Zack is, which goes along with how long he's been doing it and as well as he's been doing it."

Additionally, Matheny pointed to Greinke's emerging leadership qualities as something that has set him apart at this late stage in his career. The Royals have an entire wave of young pitching talent at the big-league level, and Greinke is looked to for advice and guidance with regularity. Contrary to what many would expect, Matheny used the word "organic" when describing how eager Greinke was — and is — to help.

Sustained success doesn't happen by accident. Extending a career beyond the point where many begin to fall off and/or retire doesn't happen by accident, either. There's a method to Greinke's madness, even if it changes frequently. His relentless pursuit of a competitive edge is one of the best things about him, and it's gotten him through 500 starts with mostly positive results. Wednesday's outing was another example of that, and Matheny knows just how special that was.