Tribe gets to Greinke, but Huff stumbles

Tribe gets to Greinke, but Huff stumbles

KANSAS CITY -- The Indians got to reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, but not enough to overcome the way the Royals got to David Huff.

Huff allowed six runs in the middle innings, and that was all the Royals needed to hand the Tribe a 6-4 loss in the series finale at Kauffman Stadium on Thursday. Thus ended the Indians' three-game winning streak and, as it turned out, Royals manager Trey Hillman's reign. Hillman was relieved of his duties after the game.

Over in the visiting clubhouse, Huff, who has struggled mightily in his last four starts (plus an outing washed away by rain last week), wasn't relieved of his duties in the rotation. But before speaking to reporters, he was pulled aside for about 15 minutes for a closed-door meeting with manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Tim Belcher.

"He lit a fire under my butt," Huff said of Belcher. "We're on the same page. I'm definitely working to make adjustments and headed in the right direction."

Unfortunately for Huff, the adjustments that came in this game were the ones made by the Royals' hitters the second time through the order. And that negated the work the Tribe offense had done against Greinke.

The Indians were up early on Greinke after a three-run third. They put two on with two out, setting up consecutive RBI singles from Austin Kearns and Jhonny Peralta and an RBI double from Matt LaPorta.

Not bad for a team that scored all of eight runs against Greinke in five games last season.

"I thought we had a lot of good at-bats against Greinke," Acta said. "We were able to get his pitch count up and do what we wanted to do."

Just not enough.

Huff got through the game's first three innings unscathed, but he let two on with one out in the fourth. Alberto Callaspo then took him deep with a three-run shot to left to tie the game.

"It was very frustrating to give up those three runs," Huff said. "My slider wasn't working. I thought I could make adjustments to make it work, and it obviously didn't work."

Not in the fourth and not in the fifth, when the Royals took over. Yuniesky Betancourt led off with a double. Two outs later, David DeJesus knocked him in with a single. Billy Butler followed with an RBI double to make it 6-3.

The second and third trips through the order did Huff in. Since his complete-game gem against the Rangers on April 15, he has allowed 19 runs over 22 innings.

"This level is about making adjustments," Acta said. "It's tough to go three or four times through a lineup, because people constantly make adjustments. He needs to pitch with his fastball and utilize his secondary pitches."

Huff said he is guilty of not trusting his fastball enough.

"I need to get after these guys," he said. "I was giving them too much credit. We have game plans for a reason."

The Indians got a run in the eighth off Robinson Tejeda, but they couldn't climb all the way back. They had knocked Greinke out after six innings, though they didn't totally dismantle him.

"He started locating his fastball to both sides of the plate," Travis Hafner said. "He got into a pretty good rhythm toward the end."

Huff, on the other hand, lost that rhythm. And though he still has a job, the meeting with the higher-ups made it clear that much more is expected of him.

As for the Indians, they had nothing to show for their early success off Greinke.

"We'll take the series," Acta said. "We had a decent day against the caliber of pitcher that Greinke is and didn't win. But we'll move on."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.