Unlikely relievers seal win for Greinke
Hatcher, Johnson each toss scoreless inning after Dodgers righty twirls gem
CINCINNATI -- The Dodgers used five relievers in each win Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The price paid was having closer Kenley Jansen and bullpen mates Juan Nicasio, Luis Avilan and J.P. Howell unavailable Thursday behind starter Zack Greinke.
"I didn't know how many people weren't available," Greinke said after throwing a four-hitter through seven innings of a 1-0 nail-biting win over the Reds. "Good thing I didn't have a bad outing today. I don't remember the last time this many were down. Crazy."
Greinke seems to never have a bad outing. He's 14-3 with an MLB-leading 1.61 ERA. He's thrown at least six innings every start this year and has 10 scoreless starts at least that long, tying for second behind Sandy Koufax's club record of 12.
"He's as smart as there is," said former teammate and Reds outfielder Skip Schumaker. "He scouts as good as anybody I've seen. He knows how to get you out. He's tougher, no question, when guys are on base. I don't have a bad thing to say about the kid."
Greinke's a leading candidate for a second Cy Young Award, if not a repeat of Clayton Kershaw's MVP. He participated in the Dodgers' league-high 18th shutout, only two of which were complete games by Kershaw, meaning the bullpen has had some fine moments, too.
In this shutout, however, Greinke got help from unlikely sources, as Chris Hatcher pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Jim Johnson a perfect ninth for his first save as a Dodger.
Those are not the names Dodgers fans have wanted to see late in games, but each was acquired to fill roles like these. It was hoped Hatcher would be a bridge to the ninth when he came from Miami in the Dee Gordon trade, while Johnson has a pair of 50-save seasons on his resume and management figured he could at least set up, if not help close, when they acquired him from Atlanta in the Hector Olivera deal.
Both, however, began their Dodgers careers in forgettable fashion. Hatcher was demoted to mopup duties during an ineffective the first half, then missed two months with a left oblique strain, but he's pitched scoreless relief in eight of his past nine outings.
"It was more of a mental thing," Hatcher said of his early tailspin. "I had too much to think about. If things didn't go well or I was unlucky, I'd pout, I guess you'd say. Now I move on. If I give up a hit, I give up a hit, and move on to the next one. Forget about what happened the first part of the year. I kind of let stuff blow up on me instead of minimized things."
And Johnson, obtained last month from Atlanta, allowed runs in six of his first nine Dodgers outings, including an eight-run debacle in Pittsburgh. But he contributed to all three wins against the Reds, the first Dodgers series sweep at Great American Ball Park since 2008.
"It's been tough," Johnson said. "I'm trying to contribute in a meaningful way. I hadn't like I wanted to. I felt that I affected some of the games we played, some of the games we lost, not directly but indirectly I wasn't doing my job."