A's again can't solve 'unpredictable' Greinke

May 20th, 2021

OAKLAND -- The A’s are coming up on nearly two decades of offensive frustration against Zack Greinke. Wednesday night was just another chapter in that long history.

For the second time this season, Oakland’s bats went cold against the veteran right-hander. The A’s mustered only four hits through eight innings against Houston’s ace in an 8-1 loss at the Coliseum, shrinking their lead over the Astros in the American League West to just a half-game.

This contest was a stark contrast from the A’s exciting walk-off victory in the previous night’s series opener. That game featured heavy contributions from stars Ramón Laureano, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, who combined to drive in five of the club’s six runs. On Wednesday, that trio went 0-for-10 with three strikeouts against Greinke.

The rest of the lineup did not fare much better, succumbing to Greinke’s season-high of eight strikeouts. Of the 19 balls put in play, the average exit velocity against the 37-year-old was just 87.6 mph.

“He’s just really unpredictable,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He doesn’t walk guys. He doesn’t put anybody on base. He just stays off the barrel of the bat. Just pitched another really good game against us.”

The A’s have seen this movie before -- Greinke finds an early rhythm and settles in. It’s the same torment he’s wreaked on the green and gold since bursting onto the scene as a 20-year-old rookie with the Royals in 2004.

In 24 career games against Oakland, Greinke is now 11-3 with a 2.66 ERA. Those outings seem to have only gotten even more dominant since he became a division rival, now 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA against them in seven starts since joining the Astros in 2019.

“He was lights out today,” said Chad Pinder. “He’s pitched some really good games against us before. I wouldn’t say it was anything different as far as how he was attacking us. He was locating. Fastball was there for him on both sides of the plate -- sinker and four-seamer. 

“That’s not something we’re shocked by. It is Zack Greinke.”

The lone run against Greinke came in the second on an RBI double by Sean Murphy, who left the game early due to injury after taking some especially hard foul tips off the facemask.

Despite surrendering a homer to Jose Altuve on the first pitch of the game as part of a two-run first, Frankie Montas did his best to keep up with Greinke. The right-hander did not allow a run after the first. Even with his pitch count growing rapidly at 73 pitches through three innings, Montas managed to turn in five innings of two-run ball.

But a game that was kept close on a gritty performance by Montas slipped out of reach by the A’s bullpen, which allowed six runs across the game’s final three innings.

The relievers who were responsible for the late add-on runs weren’t exactly Melvin’s go-to options for those innings. Part of that is due to the high workload placed on back-end pieces Yusmeiro Petit, Jake Diekman and Lou Trivino in recent games.

On Wednesday, right-hander Deolis Guerra inherited a one-run deficit to begin the sixth and allowed that to grow to four runs by the seventh, with the big blow in that frame a two-out, two-run double by Yuli Gurriel. Left-hander Adam Kolarek’s three runs allowed in the eighth were also largely the result of a two-run double by Gurriel, which also came with two outs. The slugger had four hits on the night.

“We’re playing so many close games that we’re using our big three or four [relievers] in the bullpen a lot,” Melvin said. “It’s tough for some of the other guys to be consistent when they haven’t pitched a whole lot. Guerra has been really good for us and was one pitch away from getting out of that inning with it still a 2-1 game.

“The big blow, obviously, was Gurriel. That just made it a different game.”