Greinke chosen to start All-Star Game for NL
League leader in ERA selected by Bochy, will oppose Astros' Keuchel
CINCINNATI -- Zack Greinke, the National League's starting pitcher, throws a pitch that Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo calls "a changeup/split-finger/fastball." Rizzo faced the Dodgers' co-ace on June 23, while Greinke was in the beginning stages of a scoreless streak that sits at 35 2/3 innings -- and he came away perplexed.
"It's a pitch that you just don't see," Rizzo said, "and he throws it for a strike down and away, and you're like, 'Is that a fastball? Is that a changeup?' You don't know what it is. He dots, he paints the corners, and he does it really well."
In other words: Good luck, American League.
When Greinke takes the mound for the All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile tonight at Great American Ball Park -- opposite Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel -- he'll do so with a 1.39 ERA that is the lowest by a pitcher with at least 100 innings at the break since 1968. Greinke has retired 36 of his last 37 batters, sports the second-lowest WHIP in the Major Leagues (0.84) and has walked 20 batters in 123 1/3 innings, striking out 106.
Greinke became the clear choice to start his first All-Star Game after Nationals ace Max Scherzer pitched on Sunday, making him unavailable for the Midsummer Classic.
"I had some great starters that were candidates, but these numbers that [Zack is] putting up are really, really unbelievable," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, at the helm of the NL squad.
"It was good," Greinke said of getting selected. "I know my family was extra excited. My wife is less than three weeks away from having a kid, possibly, and she found a way to get out here, even though she probably shouldn't have. That just shows how excited the family is."
Greinke's scoreless streak is the fourth longest in Dodgers history, behind Orel Hershiser's Major League-record 59, Don Drysdale's 58 and Clayton Kershaw's 41 last year. Only Hershiser and Drysdale have gone five consecutive starts without allowing a run since 1920.
Greinke called his streak "pretty good," but he believes he had a better one in his AL Cy Young Award-winning season with the Royals six years ago.
"I guess they scored more runs in 2009, but I thought it was more impressive then," said Greinke, the first Dodgers pitcher to start the All-Star Game since Brad Penny in 2006. "Now I'm just making good pitches. The last two games, I've been kind of lucky. [Giancarlo] Stanton got hurt before [I faced] Miami. In Philly, [Chase] Utley wasn't there, and it wasn't the same team it was a couple years ago. I've been getting some breaks and making good pitches."
Greinke will next face an AL starting lineup that includes center fielder Mike Trout, third baseman Josh Donaldson, first baseman Albert Pujols, designated hitter Nelson Cruz, right fielder Lorenzo Cain, left fielder Adam Jones, catcher Salvador Perez, second baseman Jose Altuve and shortstop Alcides Escobar.
Since signing a six-year, $147 million contract with the Dodgers in December 2012 -- a deal he can opt out of at the end of this season -- Greinke has gone 40-14 with a 2.36 ERA in 503 1/3 innings. The three-time All-Star said he's "probably changed more than anyone else in baseball over the last 10 years, going from control pitcher, to power pitcher, to power pitcher that wasn't very good, to control pitcher that was OK."
This year, Greinke has allowed one run or fewer in 14 of his 18 starts.
"[Greinke is] just commanding the ball unbelievably," said Kershaw, who joined his rotation-mate at the All-Star Game by taking Scherzer's roster spot. "His three pitches that he has, that he can command at any time and throw at any count, with the movement that he has, hitters don't know what to expect. I can't imagine it's an easy at-bat."
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