Righty goes 12-2 in final 19 starts after igniting club's historic 42-8 stretch
ATLANTA -- Zack Greinke spent much of the regular season proving to be the elite pitcher the Dodgers hoped he would be when they signed him to a six-year, $147 million deal in the offseason. Now, the Dodgers are hoping their prized acquisition can carry that success over into the postseason.
Likely a Game 1 starter for most other teams, Greinke will instead get the call on Friday opposite Braves lefty Mike Minor in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, at 3 p.m. PT on TBS, after teammate -- and NL Cy Young favorite -- Clayton Kershaw led Los Angeles to a 6-1 victory in the series opener.
Greinke, too, has posted Cy Young-caliber numbers, going 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA during the regular season, but he said the entire rotation is dangerous, not just the dynamic duo leading the way.
"It's not just us two," Greinke said. "I feel like just the whole team has been pitching good. And when you watch other people do good, it makes it easier for you. You start to think that it's normal and not out of the ordinary to pitch that good."
2013: 17 GS, 6-5, 3.62 ERA Career: 45 G (44 GS), 18-11, 3.51 ERA
Against this opponent
2013: 1 GS, 1-0, 0.00 ERA Career: 3 GS, 1-1, 3.50 ERA
2013: 2 GS, 1-0, 2.25 ERA Career: 5 GS, 1-1, 2.32 ERA
Loves to face: B.J. Upton, 2-for-23, 11 K Hates to face: Justin Upton, 6-for-14, 2 HR
Loves to face: Andre Ethier, 0-for-6 Hates to face: A.J. Ellis, 4-for-10, 1 HR
Why he'll win: Has won 12 of past 14 decisions
Why he'll win: Dominated the Dodgers twice this year
Pitcher beware: Braves led National League in home runs
Pitcher beware: Has not pitched in the postseason
Bottom line: Stick to game plan, keep the ball in the park
Bottom line: Forget about rough September, don't get overwhelmed by the moment
Though Greinke's debut season with the Dodgers got off to an adverse start, few other pitchers were as dominant over the season's final three months.
In just his second start in Dodger blue, Greinke suffered a broken left collarbone on April 11 in a benches-clearing fracas with the Padres. He returned to the mound on May 15 for a Dodgers team that was just 16-22 at the time, and it took another month for Greinke -- and the Dodgers -- to start turning things around.
Yet on June 22, both Greinke and his club seemed to simultaneously hit their strides.
It was on that day that Greinke limited the Padres -- the same team against which he broke his collarbone two months earlier -- to just one run over eight innings in a 6-1 Dodgers victory. That win marked the beginning of the Dodgers' historic 42-8 run from June 22-Aug. 18, but it also proved to be the turning point for Greinke.
The Dodgers righty went 12-2 with a 2.03 ERA over his final 19 starts dating to that fateful game. His ERA during that span was third best in the Majors, trailing only Kershaw (1.61) and Marlins rookie phenom Jose Fernandez (1.45).
"Since I started pitching better," Greinke said, "there's been like no mistakes in the field, and that makes it easier. It kind of helped the confidence. And then once you start doing good, it's easier to stay on that roll and keep executing a lot of pitches."
As stellar as Greinke was from that point forward, he seemed to raise his game to an even higher level specifically over the final two months.
He just finally had an 11-start unbeaten streak snapped in his final start of the season, and even that was simply the result of a lack of run support. Greinke allowed just one run over six innings in a hard-luck 1-0 loss to the Rockies on Sept. 28, his first loss since July 25.
Even still, he managed to keep another streak intact. In holding the Rockies to just a run, Greinke capped off the regular season by limiting his opponent to two runs or fewer for his 12th straight start -- the longest such streak by any starter since 2010 when then-Padres righty Mat Latos accomplished the feat in 15 straight outings from June 10-Sept. 7.
As for the team he will face on Friday, Greinke tossed seven shutout innings in his lone start this season against the Braves, though that was nearly four months ago. The righty is hopeful he can duplicate that June 6 performance and help his team to a commanding 2-0 series lead, but he knows it may not be as easy this time around.
"They've got a bunch of power, and you kind of have to locate your pitches," Greinke said. "So I think those are the two main things. If you don't locate against them, they can do some damage."
With Kershaw pitching lights-out, as advertised, in the Dodgers' series-opening victory, skipper Don Mattingly admitted it's a luxury as a manager to know he has his other co-ace primed to pitch Game 2 on Friday.
"It's nice. I'm not going to complain for sure," Mattingly said. "It's nice to have those two guys up front that you know are capable of going out and pretty much you're comfortable that they're going to at least keep you in the game. They're not going to waver."