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The closest calls that almost ended Zack Greinke's 43 2/3 scoreless inning streak

Close calls that almost ended Zack Greinke's streak

Zack Greinke is in the middle of one of the greatest pitching streaks in baseball history. Using his five-pitch mix and effortlessly voluminous hair, Greinke has run his scoreless inning streak up to 43 2/3 innings after pitching eight innings of three-hit, 11-strikeout ball against the Nationals on Sunday afternoon. 

Since giving up a home run to Justin Upton in the eighth inning on June 13, Greinke has not allowed a run in six starts, giving up only 19 hits during that time with an absurd 42/4 K/BB ratio. In 19 starts this year, Greinke has given up only 20 runs -- only 19 of them earned. In case you were curious, only one qualified pitcher in Major League history has had an equal number of earned runs and starts: Mordecai Brown, who gave up 32 earned runs in 32 starts in 1906.

Still, during this remarkable streak, there must have been some luck involved. Or some big-time strikeouts with the bases loaded. Or at the very least, some divine intervention, right, with a cosmic hand reaching down from the heavens and clearing the bases? Let's take a look. 

June 18 vs. Rangers: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 8 K

Times runners reached scoring position: 2

After facing the minimum in his first three innings of work, Greinke started the fourth inning by allowing singles to Shin-Soo Choo and Rougned Odor -- with Alberto Callaspo making a diving grab to keep it in the infield. Vin Scully even said that had he missed it, it would have likely been extra bases with a possible run scoring. 

After striking out Joey Gallo, Greinke got Mitch Moreland to hit into a fielder's choice with Howie Kendrick going deep into the hole to field the ball and throw to second to keep a runner out of scoring position. Perhaps not the most difficult of plays, but one that frequently either gets into right field or results in runners at second and third, rather than first and third. 


On the very next pitch, Elvis Andrus hit a deep fly to right field, though it was a routine catch for Yasiel Puig, ending the inning and the threat.

Greinke would stay out of trouble until the seventh. After striking out Moreland to start the inning, Andrus singled. Following Leonys Martin's popout, Robinson Chirinos singled to left field with Andrus running for third base, where he would slide in safely. Or did he? 

Fortunately, the Dodgers used their Sherlock Holmes skill, realizing that Andrus had briefly left the bag because the direction of dirt that had blown in the air or the slight discoloration on the palms or Andrus' gloves or something. 

The team challenged the call and Andrus was out. Were it not for that tiny, nearly impercievable separation between Andrus and the bag when Callaspo's tag was applied, we wouldn't be talking about this today. 

Danger of giving up a run: 7

Luck: 7

Though Greinke was good, he also benefited from some strong defensive work behind him and a sharp eye in the replay booth to get away with this one. Strange to think that we've already seen how easily Greinke's streak, the third-longest in Dodgers history, almost came to not existing at the very early on. 

This is also why every time travel movie warns people not to travel through time. 

June 23 vs. Cubs: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K

Times runners reached scoring position: 2

The shortest outing during Greinke's streak was instantly suspenseful. Like an episode of "24" or "Remington Steele."

After Greinke got Chris Coghlan to ground out back to the mound to start the bottom of the first, Anthony Rizzo hit a line drive single to right. Kris Bryant then walked (after starting the count 0-2) to put runners at first and second. Miguel Montero next hit a deep drive to right field that allowed Rizzo to tag up and move to third before Bryant stole second. With runners on second and third, would Starlin Castro be able to drive the run in?  

No, he would not. Don't you know what this post is about by now? The shortstop popped up to end the inning.

The Cubs would only get a runner to second base one more time off of Greinke when Coghlan hit a hustle double to center field in the bottom of the third. Rizzo next came up and hit a hard line drive to center field, but Joc Pederson got a good jump and ran a Statcast™ measured 55.6 feet. 

That would be it for the dangerous chances against Greinke, though he did benefit a bit from this beautiful baby-catch-turned-interference call on Jason Hammel


Danger: 6

Luck: 3

Runners on second and third in the first and a hard-hit liner from Rizzo with runners in scoring position? Yeah, Greinke was in a fair bit of danger, though he easily escaped the threats without sweating too much. 

June 28 vs. Marlins: 7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 6 SO

Times runners reached scoring position: 2

Greinke didn't face much trouble until the bottom of the fourth, giving up a one-out walk to Yelich and a two-out single to Marcell Ozuna. But Derek Dietrich would hit a routine grounder to second base to end the inning. Nothing to see here, just keep moving. 

In fact, the Marlins would only get someone to second base one more time when Justin Bour hit a double down the right-field line in the bottom of the seventh. But while Bour is a powerful and frightening hitter whenever he lifts the ball in the air, this was a grounder down the first-base line. Greinke then got Ichiro Suzuki to follow with a hard liner to the opposite field, directly where Scott Van Slyke was stationed. 

Really, the closest the Marlins came to scoring came with one out in the bottom of the sixth and nobody on when Dee Gordon came to the plate. He slashed a line drive down the left-field line that Andre Ethier had to race 53 feet for with 94.7 percent efficiency to make a nice diving play.

Not only is that probably a double given Gordon's speed (or a triple or inside-the-park home run if he misses on the dive), but Christian Yelich followed Gordon with a single. This would've broken up Greinke's scoreless streak. 

Danger: 5

Luck: 7

Though never in any real trouble, the fact that Dee Gordon was both caught stealing in the first and had an extra-base hit stolen in the sixth certainly indicates that Greinke had a bit of a luck on his side. Especially considering that Gordon's BABIP as of July 18 is .403. When Gordon hits the ball, it tends to land for a hit. 

July 4 vs. Mets: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 4 SO

Times runners reached scoring position: 3

The most times that Greinke allowed runners to reach scoring position combined with his fewest strikeouts during the streak? Must have been harrowing, right? Not so much. 

Curtis Granderson started the game with a soft single to the left-center gap. After Greinke got the next two hitters out easily, Wilmer Flores hit a ground ball down the line that Callaspo again made a nice diving stop on. Though he wasn't able to keep Flores from getting an infield single, he did prevent the ball from going down the line for extra bases, possibly scoring Granderson. 

Of course, because this is Zack Greinke, pitcher-bot extraordinaire on the mound, Darrell Ceciliani would ground out one pitch later to Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning. 

In the second inning, Kevin Plawecki came up and laced a one-out double to the right-center gap. Fortunately for Greinke, Matt Harvey was up next and he harmlessly struck out before Juan Lagares hit a lazy fly ball to center field to end the inning. Again, a runner on base, but no real problems. 

Finally, the last time the Mets offered any threat against Greinke came in the top of the fourth. Flores led off with a ground-ball single to right, getting wiped off the bases by Ceciliani's slow chopper that almost resulted in a double play. Ruben Tejada then hit a sharp line drive to left field that Ethier had to make a somewhat difficult catch on, grabbing the ball near his shoetops, though there was no real danger of the ball landing or of it going for extra bases. 

Ceciliani then stole second base, with Plawecki up. Would this be the time that someone finally managed to force a single through with a runner on second? 

Listen, I'm not sure how you've made it this far, but no, Plawecki flied out easily to Puig. 

In fact, the most dangerous moment for Greinke likely came when he singled at the plate, coming a little too close to hitting himself in the head with his bat flip for an at-home fan's comfort.

Danger: 4

Luck: 2

Easy. I don't even know why team's are bothering to come to the plate or have runners on the bases. 

July 9 vs. Phillies: 8 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 8 SO

Times runners reached scoring position: 0

Well, no one even reached second base against Greinke. In fact, only one batter even made it on base against the starter when Ryan Howard hit a little opposite-field bloop single into right field. 

Other than that, it was Cameron Rupp's long fly ball that may have come the closest to leaving the park during this whole stretch of games: 

And it's not like Puig was leaping at the fence, either. 

Danger: 1

Luck: 1

At this point, I'm not even sure what I can say anymore. All hail Zack Greinke, our hero from the sun with the long hair. Hey, speaking of: Does anyone think that Zack Greinke's beautiful mane of brownish-blonde hair is kind of like a cape for his head? 


July 19 vs. Nationals: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 11 SO

Times runners reached scoring position: 0

Yep, he did it again. He's only getting better. Abandon all hope, for this is surely the robotic man who was sent here from the future to enslave us all or get us to change our phone plans. (I've never actually seen Terminator, so I'm just guessing.)

Of the three hits that Greinke allowed, they were all soft line drives that offered few problems to the outfielders. In fact, after going through these games, I'm starting to think Greinke allowed the hits on purpose, just so his fielders wouldn't be boring.

Of the three hits, this was probably the hardest it. It was a single. By Clint Robinson. 

Danger: 1

Luck: 1

Going into this exercise, I thought I would notice that while Greinke had certainly been dominant, he had also been lucky. Perhaps there had been a few times where a diving catch with a runner on second base prevented a run from scoring. Or that a number of deep fly balls were caught with leaping grabs at the walls.

If anything, this shows how few of those there have been. Sure, most starts have seen Greinke in danger at least once, but at no point has he been working out of a runner at third situation with no one out, needing a couple of clutch strikeouts to get out of the jam. 

What this shows is that Greinke is only getting better. Like an advanced AI that Stephen Hawking had warned us about, perhaps the Dodgers starter will never allow a run ever again. Or, perhaps more terrifying, Greinke is going to release spores that will travel across the Major Leagues, stopping all runs in all games before moving on, taking out scoring in basketball, football and hockey, too. Perhaps, in this Greinke-like existence, no point, run, or goal will ever be scored ever again and millions of fans will be forced to find joy in cross-stitch or homebrewing. 

Sure, that may sound crazy. I would have thought so, too. But after watching how Greinke pitched over the last six weeks, I don't believe anything is impossible for him anymore. 

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