After a rare relief appearance, Kansas City right-hander Zack Greinke will return to a more familiar role on Monday night when the Royals begin a three-game series against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
Greinke (1-12, 5.34 ERA) missed two-plus weeks with right elbow soreness before entering as a reliever in the fourth inning of Tuesday's game against the Oakland A's. The six-time All-Star and 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner scattered two hits over four scoreless innings in his first relief appearance since Oct. 10, 2021.
"He looked sharp," Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. "He looked like he was back to his normal form and got a bunch of swing and miss and soft contact like he does. He is always in the zone. It was a really positive outing for him."
Kansas City is returning home following a 2-7 trip. The Royals were swept in three games by the Seattle Mariners over the weekend to fall 50 games under .500.
Pittsburgh is looking to bounce back after losing three of four to the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates were held to four hits in Sunday's 10-1 loss.
"We just didn't play well," Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. "We didn't do a lot of things well, and sometimes you're going to have games like that. We have to flush it and move on to Kansas City."
The Pirates will send right-hander Johan Oviedo (7-13, 4.46 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. He snapped a personal two-game skid on Tuesday when he tossed five innings of one-run ball in a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Oviedo, 25, has set career highs with 26 starts and 145 1/3 innings pitched this season. He is 4-2 with a 3.44 ERA in his last six starts covering 34 innings.
Oviedo is set to make his first career appearance against the Royals. He is 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA in his last three road starts.
The Pirates have struggled in the past against Greinke, who is 10-4 with a 3.83 ERA in 15 career starts vs. the club. Andrew McCutchen is 9-for-36 with a home run against Greinke.
Kansas City has received a spark from right fielder Drew Waters, who has an extra-base hit in three of his last four games.
"I feel good at the plate," Waters said. "I'm not doing anything that drastically different. It's baseball, and there is up and downs. Luckily, I'm feeling pretty good in the box."
Like Kansas City, Pittsburgh is evaluating several young players this month. Shelton said he's looking for improvement at the plate from players such as Jack Suwinski, Liover Peguero, Ji Hwan Bae, Josh Palacios and Endy Rodriguez.
The Pirates struck out a combined 27 times in their last two games, including 12 on Sunday.
"I think at times we get too passive," Shelton said after Sunday's loss. "I think at times we look at pitches that are called strikes that may not be, and people get criticized for it.
"With young players, we have to have that fine line between being passive and being aggressive. I think (Sunday), we got executed against. As good as our young hitters have been at times, I think we saw some young at-bats today."
—Field Level Media