Greinke sharp in final tuneup for postseason
Right-hander saddled with loss as offense held to three hits
LOS ANGELES -- Zack Greinke was the perfect complement to Clayton Kershaw over the final three months of the regular season, and the Dodgers will need continued success from their top two starters in October for the club to reach its lofty goal.
Greinke wrapped up a successful regular season with six innings of one-run ball on Saturday night but took the loss in a 1-0 defeat to the Rockies at a sold-out Dodger Stadium. The right-hander pitched well enough to win his eighth straight decision, striking out seven and walking none, but Los Angeles managed just three hits against Colorado starter Juan Nicasio and five relievers.
With the loss, the Dodgers fell to 12-13 in September and 6-9 in their past 15 games. But as manager Don Mattingly made clear earlier in the week, all that matters is how the club plays in the National League Division Series, which begins Thursday.
Kershaw will start Game 1 of the NLDS, which will be in Atlanta or St. Louis, whichever finishes second in the league. Greinke will start Game 2.
"When those guys take the ball, you feel like you're going to win," Mattingly said. "It's pretty much quality start after quality start. That's just confidence for our club."
As he approaches his first postseason appearance since 2011, Greinke has a 1.58 ERA over his past 12 starts.
"I feel pretty good," he said. "I'm executing pitches pretty well. It could be worse, that's for sure."
Greinke, though, cautioned that winning the best-of-five Division Series won't be a simple task.
"We don't have home-field advantage, that will make it tougher," Greinke said. "Anything can happen in a short series. It's definitely not going to be easy. It's going to take some breaks."
While Kershaw and Greinke give the Dodgers confidence heading into the postseason, there are concerns about the health of the club.
Matt Kemp was scratched from Saturday's lineup five minutes before the game when his left ankle wouldn't get loose. Kemp missed 52 games earlier in the year when he sprained the ankle.
Andre Ethier is in Arizona rehabbing an ankle injury of his own, and Mattingly said he's unsure if Ethier "will be able to get on the field or not" in the NLDS.
Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez is dealing with an irritated nerve issue in his lower back, and the shortstop hasn't played consecutive games in two weeks.
"It doesn't look like we're going to be total full strength," Mattingly said.
The Dodgers weren't at full strength Saturday, as outfielders Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford joined Kemp on the bench. That resulted in Skip Schumaker playing center field, flanked by rookies Scott Van Slyke and Nick Buss.
The Dodgers had traffic on the basepaths but couldn't come up with a hit when they needed one. They stranded two runners in scoring position in the second inning, another in the fourth and failed to score after loading the bases with one out in the sixth.
Puig pinch-hit in the seventh but struck out swinging to end the frame.
"It was a tough game," Greinke said. "We played well but their pitcher pitched really well. He had a really good fastball and located it. We had some opportunities but they got out of it."
The Rockies doubled twice in the fourth inning to score the only run of the game.
"Greinke was great," said Rockies manager Walt Weiss. "We scratched the one run across but he's had a helluva year and he was good tonight."
The Dodgers also received solid pitching from their bullpen Saturday, with scoreless innings from Ronald Belisario, Paco Rodriguez and Brian Wilson.
In his first season with the Dodgers, Greinke proved to be worth the six-year, $147 million contract he signed in December. He went 15-4 and posted a 2.63 ERA in 28 starts. The Dodgers were 22-6 when Greinke took the mound.
Greinke's regular season followed a similar pattern to the rest of the club. He was slowed by a broken left collarbone in April, struggled in May and found his stride in June. Once Greinke found his groove, the Dodgers took off and won the NL West for the first time in four years.
"The beginning was pretty hectic, same with the whole team," he said. "I was struggling at the beginning and working to try to get better. Finally everyone got healthy and it took a little bit after that but we started to play better. Not perfect, but a lot of good things and a couple bad things."
Greinke also produced at the plate. He batted .328 (19-for-58) to finish with the highest single-season average for a Dodgers pitcher since Orel Hershiser hit .356 in 1993.
"He's been great," Mattingly said.
The Dodgers will need Greinke to be great in October, too.