Greinke grinds, but Braves clutch when it counts
Both runs Dodgers righty allows in his six innings come with two outs
ATLANTA -- Though the numbers may indicate Zack Greinke turned in yet another quality start on Friday night, the right-hander's Game 2 performance in the National League Division Series seemed to lack some of the dominance that has become so typical of his outings.
Despite limiting the Braves to just two runs in the Dodgers' 4-3 loss, Greinke threw only 83 pitches over six innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. The rest of the numbers don't paint a much clearer picture, either.
Greinke didn't walk a batter, but he notched only three strikeouts. He threw first-pitch strikes to just 12 of the 22 hitters he faced, though he often came right back with a strike to even the count. In all, 55 of his 83 pitches went for strikes.
"I mean regardless of what it felt like, in the end he only gave up two runs," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "That gives us a pretty good chance to win the game. Between [Clayton] Kershaw and himself, those two set the bar pretty high. So anytime they aren't close to perfect, maybe it seems like an off night. But he kept us in it the entire time he was on the mound, and that's all you can ask."
To Greinke, it was simply a matter of not making the big pitch when he needed to on a night where he fell victim to a pair of two-out, run-scoring hits.
The first came in the second inning with the Dodgers leading, 1-0, at the time. After conceding a leadoff single to Evan Gattis, Greinke forced Brian McCann to ground out before striking out Chris Johnson to move within one out of escaping the threat.
Instead, shortstop Andrelton Simmons roped a double to right field, plating Gattis easily from second to tie the game. Two innings later, Johnson came through with another clutch two-out hit for the Braves, finding a hole on the left side of the infield to score Freddie Freeman from second, ultimately putting Atlanta ahead for good.
"I wasn't able to get out of any jams, and that was one of the differences in the game today," Greinke said. "It's the playoffs, every play gets magnified and they had the big plays against me today. Johnson had a big hit. I made a nice pitch, but just put the ball in play and good things happen. He hit it right where he needed to and found a hole."
Prior to Game 2, Johnson had faced Greinke just five times with four of those at-bats ending in strikeouts. Johnson added another strikeout to that resume in the second inning before coming through with the seeing-eye single in the fourth.
"Grienke was Grienke. He's good, man," Johnson said. "He's tough. He throws a lot of pitches for strikes. He's got his big curveball, he's got his slider, his cutter, his sinker … I can't tell you enough how hard those at-bats are, so you have to try to grind them out, and we did that tonight. We had success grinding them out, seeing pitches, getting guys on and coming up with a big hit with two outs."
As for his arsenal on Friday night, Greinke admitted that he didn't have his best curveball working, but said he had usual command with the rest of his pitches.
"I was able to throw strikes, no walks," Greinke said. "I had good counts to get guys out in, but just big hits at big times was the big thing. That's all it is."
Following Johnson's fourth-inning RBI single, Greinke did not allow another baserunner before manager Don Mattingly elected to pinch-hit for the right-hander in the top of the seventh inning with the potential tying run at second base.
Though Greinke had seemingly settled into a groove, retiring the final seven hitters he faced, he fully backed his skipper's decision to pinch-hit Michael Young, who legged out an infield single before Carl Crawford grounded into an inning-ending double play.
"I felt good, but that might be our last chance to get a run, so it definitely wasn't a bad decision in my opinion," Greinke said. "Like I said, I did feel good, but with a guy in scoring position, it's obviously not a bad move."
Nor was it a bad outing by any means for Greinke, who held the opposition to two runs or fewer for the 13th straight outing, dating to the regular season. Yet on the heels of Kershaw's dominating Game 1 performance -- and with the Dodgers ultimately coming away with a loss on Friday -- it just didn't have the typical Greinke feel to it.
"If anything, I'd say frustrated," Greinke said when asked if he was angry with Friday's outcome. "It was a tough game. I thought we played pretty well. They played well. But, I mean, they won, so what else is there to say?"