Zack Greinke gives Dodgers just what they needed, and expected

Victor Decolongon

Greinke has allowed two or fewer runs in 23 of his 30 starts as a Dodger.

LOS ANGELES -- While home runs were flying out of Dodger Stadium on Sunday night, six combined by both teams, the Dodgers were able to win the series finale against the Giants thanks in large part to the pitching of Zack Greinke.

After the Dodgers got a combined 6⅓ innings from their starting pitchers in the first two games of the series, Greinke struck out eight in six innings of work, with two solo home runs allowed the only negative part of his ledger. Both home runs came in the sixth inning, during which manager Don Mattingly came to the mound.

"I don't know what he was doing out there, if he was planning on taking me out or not," Greinke said. "I gave up two homers, so that could have been why. Sometimes Donnie comes out and wants to know, make sure you're okay. Normally it's Honeycutt, but I'm not sure what Donnie was doing out there.

"He likes to do that sometimes. It makes him more confident in his decision."

Mattingly's decision was to keep Greinke in the game, and he was rewarded as Greinke needed just two pitches to induce a grounder by Michael Morse to end the inning.

That ended the night for Greinke, who threw 94 pitches in his six innings.

"He was really sharp tonight. I really felt like he could have went farther in that game," Mattingly said. "Obviously we didn't want to do that at this point, so we took him out."

In just his second start of the season after a spring training truncated by a strained right calf, Greinke was removed at a point he might have stayed in later in the season.

"I'd like to have gone longer but it just didn't work out," Greinke noted. "I felt like I was getting a lot of outs and felt like the pitch count was going to be low, but somehow it was high."

The high pitch count was partially attributed to Greinke's eight strikeouts, which he recorded in the first five innings. Five of those strikeouts - Buster Posey in the first inning, Ehire Adrianza and Brandon Belt in the third inning, Brandon Crawford and Angel Pagan in the fifth - were looking, tying a career high.

Greinke had a theory for his high backwards-K count.

"The last couple years I've been throwing a lot of balls with two strikes, so I think the book is out to be patient with two strikes and don't expand the zone for me," he explained. "Some teams are kind of patient with two strikes and I think that was the case [tonight]. They weren't even borderline pitches, really. Normally guys swing at those."

Mattingly said Greinke had more confidence in his fastball, and Greinke said relative to his Tuesday start in San Diego everything was better on Sunday. Greinke also praised his catcher Drew Butera, playing for the first time this season.

"He's a defensive specialist. He can catch as good as anyone in baseball," Greinke said. "A.J. Ellis calls an amazing game and has a really good approach at the plate, but just defensively Drew is about as good as it gets. That's what he brings to the table, and he did a really good job today."

Greinke has allowed 23 total runs in his last 18 starts, dating back to 2013, and per STATS LLC is tied for the second-longest streak of consecutive starts of at least five innings with two or fewer runs allowed with 14. Greinke is tied with Greg Maddux (1993-1994) and Mike Scott (1986), one behind Mat Latos for the second-longest such streak since 1914.

"He spoils us in a sense in just being solid it seems like every time out," Mattingly said.

Notes

  • Greinke, who captured the Silver Slugger award by hitting .328/.409/.379 in 2013, doubled in the fifth inning for his first hit of the year, but he nearly had another hit in the third inning but was robbed by a great diving catch by Angel Pagan. "I was watching Morse the whole time, hoping Morse didn't run it down," Greinke recalled. "Pagan came out of nowhere, made a great play."
  • Greinke had a great answer when asked if he felt intimidating on the mound: "I just try to make it as tough as possible on the hitter, but intimidation is not a word you think would be said about me."
  • When asked about being often seen Sunday night stretching around the mound, Greinke was surprised. "I heard people saying that, but I feel like I do that every game," he noted. "I don't know what the big deal was today. Just trying to get ready to make the best pitch possible is the plan."

Up next

The Dodgers are off Monday, then host the Tigers for two games beginning Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium to complete the homestand. Dan Haren gets the call in the series opener, facing 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer in a reunion of 2008-2009 Diamondbacks.

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