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NL West cushion lets Mattingly hook Greinke early

ANAHEIM -- Don Mattingly let Clayton Kershaw throw 132 pitches in a complete-game win against the Giants last week. So why did he hook Zack Greinke Monday night after six innings and 89 pitches?

The answer the manager didn't give is that the Dodgers, who were battling for breathing room when Kershaw completed the sweep of the Giants last week, have separated from the pack. They extended their National League West lead to a season-high 8 1/2 games by outlasting the Angels in this one, 7-5. They've won 12 of the last 14 and are a season-high 21 games above .500.

So Mattingly now has the luxury of the lead, the dwindling schedule and a 34-man roster that includes 10 relievers, six of which were used over the final three innings. It all worked, as Chris Hatcher pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Kenley Jansen a scoreless ninth for his 30th save.

"We weren't going to push [Greinke] tonight after the last game [114 pitches against the Giants], he threw lot of pitches and battled," said Mattingly. "You can ask Zack, he wasn't the typical Zack, not as sharp as he can be. We made that decision not tax him tonight."

In defense of the decision, Greinke didn't seem like the NL Cy Young contender who brought a 1.59 ERA into the game. Before the fifth inning was over, he had allowed home runs to C.J. Cron and Kole Calhoun, each time squandering a lead provided by a Dodgers offense that had 16 hits and five walks against nine Angels pitchers.

"The first five innings weren't real sharp, and all of a sudden the sixth I started pitching real good," said Greinke. "Everything started working all of a sudden. It was a little late, but we got plenty of runs today. Good timing to have not a great start."

Greinke, who had an extra day of rest with Mike Bolsinger inserted into the rotation, said he feels better physically this year in September than he has in the past. He had made 81 pitches through five innings before a 1-2-3 sixth inning. But with Calhoun due up third in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Dodgers sent eight batters to the plate in the top of the seventh and Luis Avilan came on to start the seventh.

At one point, Mattingly said Greinke wasn't laboring, he just wasn't as sharp as usual. A moment, later, he said he felt Greinke "labored all night."

Laboring or not on Labor Day, Greinke won for the 10th time in his last 11 decisions. He is 16-3 with a 1.68 ERA, 8-2 with a 1.99 ERA on the road, didn't allow a walk for the seventh start this year and has 26 quality starts in 28 outings.

Greinke sounded ambivalent when asked if he wanted to pitch longer.

"I was fine with whatever," he said. "Like Donnie said, I threw a lot last game, the last couple of months I've thrown a lot, but I felt a lot better in the sixth. I felt good, I wasn't pitching real good."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for
Read More: Los Angeles Dodgers, Zack Greinke