LOS ANGELES -- Zack Greinke pitched one of his best games of the season on Thursday night with seven scoreless innings against the Rangers. He struck out eight and walked none, but of the balls that were put into play Greinke was heavily involved.
Greinke in the first inning was involved in all three outs, getting Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Gallo to ground to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who threw to a covering Greinke. Those first and third outs were sandwiched around Rougned Odor grounding back to Greinke.
Greinke on the night had two assists and two putouts, one game after tying career highs on Saturday in San Diego with six chances (done three times) and four assists (done six times).
"I think there have been more balls hit to me. When my off-speed is moving better, I've been getting more ground balls," Greinke explained. "The last three games, I've been getting more ground balls because of that, which just increases my chances of getting a ball to make a play on."
On the season, Greinke's ground ball rate is 49.0 percent, nearing his career high of 49.2 percent, set in 2012. This year, he leads all National League pitchers with 32 chances and 22 assists.
Greinke won the National League Gold Glove Award for pitchers in 2014, and was a finalist in 2013. Don't be surprised if Greinke by season's end gets to clear out some more space on his mantel.
As for putting himself in position to win, he can't do much better than his 1.99 ERA and averaging 6.79 innings per outing in his last eight starts, even if he has no wins to show for it in his ledger.
"I don't really think about that," Greinke said. "Things will take care of themselves."
Howell in a groove
Lost in between Greinke's solid start and the balk-off euphoria was J.P. Howell striking out all three batters he faced in a scoreless eighth inning. The three strikeouts were a season high for Howell, who hasn't allowed a run in nine June appearances. This month, Howell has retired 23 of 29 batters, with seven strikeouts. One of the six to reach base against Howell in June did so via intentional walk.
Fun fact: this season Howell has been even more effective against right-handed batters, allowing them to hit .195/.250/.220, than left-handed batters, who are hitting .257/.308/.257 against him.
The Dodgers next turn their attention to the Giants, who come to Los Angeles for a weekend series beginning Friday night. Mike Bolsinger gets the call for the Dodgers in the series opener, while San Francisco counters with Chris Heston, who threw a no-hitter on June 9 in New York.