Tucker’s 1st grand slam backs stout Greinke

Veteran right-hander throws 7 shutout frames for 11th win

August 14th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Considering how much trouble the Astros have had putting up big innings over the past two weeks, ’s mighty swing of the bat in the fourth inning Friday night came at just the right time.

Tucker backed a terrific start from veteran right-hander , who threw seven scoreless innings, by walloping his first career grand slam to lead the Astros to their third consecutive win in a 4-1 victory over the Angels in the series opener at Angel Stadium.

The Astros picked up a game on the A’s in the American League West and lead the division by 2 1/2 games.

“The main thing is don’t look back behind you, look at the finish line,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “You appreciate some help from your friends, but at the same time, you’ve got to play your own game and just win. Just win, win, win and keep on winning. Everything else will take care of itself.”

Greinke rolls through Angels
It’s been an up-and-down second half for Greinke, who threw one of his best games of the season by sending down 21 of the 23 batters he faced. He struck out seven batters and didn’t walk anyone. The only two hits he allowed came to former Astros -- Max Stassi in the second inning and Jack Mayfield in the third.

“All my pitches were pretty good, my location was pretty good,” Greinke said. “They hit some balls well and we had some guys playing in those spots and that made it nice. Less stress that way.”

Greinke (11-3) sent down the final 14 batters he faced before giving way to the bullpen in the eighth. Kendall Graveman gave up a one-out single to Brandon Marsh, who later scored on a Shohei Ohtani RBI single. But Ryan Pressly shut the door in the ninth for his 19th save.

“He barely broke a sweat,” Baker said of Greinke. “He had command of all his pitches early in the game. ... He stuck to the game plan. [Catcher Martín Maldonado] directed him great, as usual, during the game. He was outstanding. I thought he had enough after seven.”

The win was the 219th in the career of Greinke, who tied Pedro Martinez and Kenny Rogers for 80th on the all-time list. Greinke’s ears perked up when he heard Martinez’s name.

“Him [Martinez], Greg Maddux, [Roger] Clemens … those guys were the best,” the 37-year-old Greinke said. “There’s a couple of more. … Randy Johnson off the top of my head. Those guys were the guys when I was in middle school, high school and probably a little before that.”

For Angels manager Joe Maddon, Greinke’s career evolution brings to mind Frank Tanana, the lefty who won 240 games in 21 seasons (1973-93), including 102 with the Angels.

“Greinke, when he was younger, would be throwing 95, 96, 97,” Maddon said. “You see guys that become veteran pitchers and are able to morph into something completely different. And that's what he's done, and give him credit, because he knows how to pitch. And that's what you saw tonight. In a day and age of just absolute blunt-force pitching, he showed you the artistry of it, and I thought he was very good."

Tucker’s slam rescues the Astros’ offense
Prior to Friday, the Astros hadn’t scored four runs in an inning since Jose Altuve hit a sixth-inning grand slam on July 30 in San Francisco. Tucker ended that drought when he took lefty Patrick Sandoval deep in the fourth inning with the bases loaded.

“It was pretty cool,” the low-key Tucker said. “Actually, I didn’t know that [it was the first one] until after. Anything you do for the first time, for me, with the team that we have, is special.”

The Astros began the fourth with consecutive walks by Carlos Correa and Yordan Alvarez. Red-hot Aledmys Díaz followed with a single, setting the stage for Tucker. He crushed a slider and the ball sailed a projected 400 feet, over the right-field wall, with an exit velocity of 102.2 mph per Statcast. He was 11-for-57 (.193) against sliders in 2021 entering Friday.

“We had the bases loaded and no outs, and I knew that even if I hit it relatively deep into the outfield, we were going to score,” Tucker said. “I was glad we ended up putting up some runs and got the win.”

Sandoval said the pitch felt good coming out of his hand, but that good feeling didn’t last long.

“I mean, he just got to it and hit it like a mile away,” Sandoval said.