With a $147 million contract comes responsibility and expectations, and Zack Greinke lived up to the advanced billing on Friday night in his Dodgers debut. He pitched scoreless ball into the seventh inning and allowed just two singles in the Dodgers' 3-0 win over the Pirates at Dodger Stadium.
"First off I've got to congratulate Greinke on a great game. He pitched really well tonight, his first start as a Dodger," said center fielder Matt Kemp, whose RBI double in the sixth inning snapped a season-opening 0-for-12 skid. "That's what we expect out of him, and he went out there and did his job."
Manager Don Mattingly agreed.
"That was kind of what we expect. He was a guy who could change speeds, and throw the ball where he wants," Mattingly said. "We talk about getting into the season and you actually game plan, trying to throw the ball in certain areas to certain guys. When you can throw the ball where you want, that's a big advantage."
I'm not sure if two baserunners allowed in 6⅓ scoreless innings, with six strikeouts, can fairly be expected every time out. But as a first impression for Greinke in Dodger blue, it was quite impressive.
"First impressions are important," Greinke said. "I'm just trying to get one out at a time, no matter who it is. That's the most important at any moment."
Dodgers starting pitchers through four starts have a 1.30 ERA with 22 strikeouts and one walk in 27⅔ innings this season. Greinke, who retired 19 of his 21 batters faced, had several pitches working for him in tandem on Friday night, which spelled doom for Pittsburgh hitters.
"Zack's got serious touch. I've watched this kid pitch since he was 19 or 20 years old. He's got great touch with his breaking ball. He can take off, he can add to it," Mattingly said. "He's just dialed in with both sides of the plate. He's able to change speeds all the way from that real slow one, to the slider, to the cutter."
Greinke threw 56 of his 92 pitches for strikes. Mattingly pulled him with one out in the seventh, saying he didn't want Greinke to get to 100 pitches on Friday night. Greinke said had both fastballs working for him.
"The fastball is the most important one. I felt like any time I could locate. It makes it easier to set up all the other pitches. Both (the two-seamer and four-seamer) were good, which makes it even better," Greinke said. "The offspeed I felt like I could throw it where I wanted to. Last game, my fastball felt pretty good but the offspeed wasn't quite right."
But for Greinke, who met and exceeded those expectations on Friday night, didn't really feel overwhelmed by the moment.
"I'm maybe calmer I guess. Each year you get more experience," Greinke said. "I felt pretty natural out there."
Clayton Kershaw, who has allowed one run in his last 27 innings and four runs in his last six starts dating back to 2012, gets the call for the Dodgers on Saturday night, facing off with A.J. Burnett of the Pirates in a battle of opening day starters.