As the Dodgers wrapped up yet another win on Saturday, a 5-0 whitewash of the Rays at Dodger Stadium, one thing remained constant: excellent work on the mound.
"If you ask me how you do it, you do it by getting the starting pitching we're getting. Our starting pitching gives us a chance every day," said manager Don Mattingly. "That's really what's been going on."
Zack Greinke was the man on the mound on Saturday, pitching 6⅓ scoreless innings for his 10th win of the season. He has seven consecutive quality starts and a 1.66 ERA in that span. The Dodgers have won nine of his last 10 starts.
Greinke, now four months removed from breaking his collarbone, is looking fully healthy and every bit the co-ace the Dodgers signed up for when giving him a six-year, $147 million contract in December.
"We've seen him get stronger and stronger. Today he was telling us he had 120 or 130 (pitches) in him, but we couldn't really see that today," Mattingly said. "We've seen 94-95 (mph), and earlier on it was 90-91. He seems to get stronger and stronger."
During their astonishing 36-8 run, Dodgers starters have a 2.58 ERA and have averaged 6.5 innings per start. They have 26 quality starts in those 44 games, 59.1% of the time. The MLB average is 52.9% of the time.
Not to be outdone, the bullpen has a 2.48 ERA during that span with 118 strikeouts in 125 innings, including a minniscule 1.75 ERA since July 1.
The bullpen chipped in Saturday with 2⅔ scoreless innings from J.P. Howell and Chris Withrow, who helped the Dodgers tie the Pirates for the National League lead with 14 shutouts on the season.
The Dodgers took the field about 14 hours after their thrilling victory Friday night, and took advantage of the quick turn around with two runs in the first inning. Greinke made them hold up with another strong performance.
"It's a lot easier to get back on the field quickly when you win," Mattingly said. "You have that momentum, but momentum really goes only as far as your starting pitcher."
The Dodgers go for the sweep on Sunday night, with ace Clayton Kershaw on the mound on ESPN. Jeremy Hellickson takes the mound for the Rays, who have lost four straight games.