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NLCS Game 5: Zack Greinke, competitor

The Dodgers right-hander struggled early but continued his three-month run of consistently great pitching on Wednesday afternoon.

Harry How

LOS ANGELES -- Zack Greinke gave the Dodgers another solid outing on Wednesday both on the mound and at the plate, helping the team stay alive with a 6-4 win over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. But early in the game things looked like it might not go his way.

The Cardinals loaded the bases with nobody out in the first inning, with Matt Adams, Yadier Molina and Jon Jay due up. Greinke was able to strikeout Adams, and was trying to get Molina to hit a roller.

"With Molina, I know if you hit on the ground there is a good chance it's either going to be a hit or a double‑play.  Risky going in, bases loaded because he could do some damage.  It was just, I mean, it worked out," Greinke said. "But with Molina there is nothing you could do that you know is going to work.  He can adjust to anything, and you just, I kind of got lucky, I guess.  I made a good pitch, but still even with a good pitch he can hurt you, and it just worked out."

Molina grounded to Juan Uribe, who stepped on third base and threw to first to escape the jam with no runs scored. Molina bailed Greinke out again in the third inning with another inning-ending double play, but not before the Cardinals struck for two runs to tie the game, the same thing that happened at the same time of Game 1 in St. Louis.

Carlos Beltran, who hit a two-run double off Greinke in Game 1, tripled in a run on Wednesday and Matt Holliday followed with an RBI double.

"I said if I got beaten by Beltran I want it to be with the curve ball and that was what happened. Probably should have went in earlier in that at‑bat when I had some opportunities and then that curve ball would have been more effective," Greinke said. "But it was one of those things where, like I said last time, yeah, you don't want Beltran to beat you.  But Holliday's just as good.  So have a pitch you want to throw to Beltran, and he just did a good job hitting it."

Beginning with Molina's double play, Greinke retired the final 13 batters he faced. In three playoff starts with the Dodgers he has a 2.57 ERA with 17 strikeouts and just two walks in 21 innings.

In his last 15 starts, dating back to the regular season, Greinke is 8-2 with a 1.79 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 17 walks. The last time he allowed more than two runs in a start was July 25.

"He's pretty much just focused all the time. He's so competitive about getting better and making pitches and with everything that he does. I think it just lends to him - I think he loves competing, to be honest with you," manager Don Mattingly said. "I think it makes it easy for him.  Doesn't really matter where it is.  It's just the fact that he's competing, trying to make pitches and get people out.  I think he likes studying and knowing how to get a guy out and what he's trying to do to get him out."

Greinke, who hit .328/.409/.379 during the regular season, drove in a run with an RBI single in Game 5.

"The hitting part, he loves that part of it. I think the stuff that we had heard is just kind of like null and void with him," Mattingly said. "He's just super competitive, and it's just been fun to watch."

That "stuff" revolves usually around a social anxiety disorder that Greinke dealt with early in his career. But the questions still linger from those who don't know Greinke, or from those who feel the need to classify people and things that aren't exactly normal. Ron Darling on TBS was playing the sports psychologist card in the first inning.

"I mean, the games are fun. They're intense. I mean, I get nervous before the starts, but I'm sure most people do," Greinke said. "I think the biggest difference is there are more people.  I mean, this room is full and the clubhouse is full of media. I mean, it's crazy."

Greinke's teammates love him.

"I didn't realize how much of an athlete he is. He moves well. I faced him so I knew how much of a good pitcher he was, but he prepares well and he's real focused, a really smart guy," Carl Crawford said. "He's a bulldog when he takes the mound.  That's the type of guy you want to play behind."

"He's one of the best competitors I've been with, one of the smartest pitchers I've been with. He doesn't get rattled. He knows what he's doing. He stays composed," said Adrian Gonzalez. "Even in that first inning, bases loaded, no outs.  He just knew if he kept making his pitches he was going to get out of it, and he did.  That just shows that he's got the whole package."

That whole package and the competitive nature had Greinke lobby Don Mattingly to start Game 4 on three days rest. Greinke also said he'd be available in relief if the Dodgers win Friday and advance to Game 7 on Saturday.

"I'm sure extra‑innings‑type situation it would be more realistic if that happens," he said.

But Greinke wants the Dodgers to win the next two games in St. Louis not only to get to the World Series. He has a fantasy football wager with his catcher, A.J. Ellis.

"I'm tied for last place, so I've got a bet that I won't be in last place by the time the season's over. So I needed to go to Sunday for that," Greinke said, smiling. "I've got a $10 bet on it, so it's important."