OAKLAND -- As they had done for teammate Justin Verlander nearly one year ago to the day in the same clubhouse at the Coliseum, the Astros toasted another member of the 200-wins club on Sunday afternoon by taking a few moments to salute starting pitcher Zack Greinke.
Greinke became the third active pitcher to reach 200 wins and, more importantly to his teammates, helped stop the Astros’ five-game losing streak in the process by holding the A’s to one run and four hits in seven innings of a 4-1 victory in Houston’s road-trip finale.
“I wouldn’t say there’s many pitchers who would say [wins] are the No. 1 most important stat for them, but if you and the team are winning, it’s the most important,” Greinke said. “It doesn’t necessarily say you’re pitching the best, but it’s the most important.”
Greinke joined CC Sabathia (251) and Verlander (219) as the only active pitchers to reach the milestone. He’s the 115th pitcher in Major League history to win 200 games. Since joining the Astros following his July 31 trade from the D-backs, he’s 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in his three starts.
“I think Zack did a great job of coming out and stopping the bleeding tonight,” said Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, who hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning. “We finished a long road trip with a win. We got a lot of work to do to accomplish what we want to, but today was a step in the right direction.”
Greinke set the tone for the Astros by sending down the first nine batters he faced, needing only 25 pitches to get through three perfect innings. Marcus Semien tagged him for a leadoff homer in the fourth, but the A’s didn’t have another batter reach third base.
“They were swinging early, and he was making good pitches and he got all his outs,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “I was more impressed with him getting a zero after an inning in which we scored. That was not easy this trip.”
The A’s came out swinging early, which was a signal they expected Greinke to be around the plate. He had struggled with his fastball command in his first two starts with Houston, but the righty was in complete control of Sunday’s game. He mixed four pitches, from a 67-mph changeup to a 92-mph fastball.
“It’s not his velocity,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He does it a little bit differently than a lot of premier starters. He paints with his fastball. His changeup is almost the same speed as his fastball, yet it dives off the table and goes straight down. Curveball for chase, curveball for strike, sliders to the right-handers, he really doesn’t give you a whole lot to hit.”
Greinke is still getting adapted to his new teammates, and he found out in the seventh inning Sunday how strong of an arm shortstop Carlos Correa has when he covered first and took a laser relay throw to complete a double play.
“I wasn’t prepared for it and couldn’t see real good,” Greinke said. “It was a little dangerous.”
The Astros capped their longest road trip of the season with a 4-6 record with a much-needed victory behind Greinke and Bregman (4-for-4), who delivered one of his biggest hits of the season with his two-out, two-strike, homer in the fifth inning to put the Astros ahead, 3-1. He’s the first Astros player with consecutive 30-homer seasons since Lance Berkman in 2006-07.
“It was nice to take advantage of an extra opportunity just given how we had swung the bats in those big situations earlier in the game,” Hinch said. “To come up with a big three-run homer was key. Yuli’s [Gurriel] swing the next inning getting the extra run was key. Not an easy trip for us. We played three series in three different time zones. No excuses, but it nice to finish this with a win and get a happy flight.”