HOUSTON -- The quick ramp-up to the start of baseball’s regular season meant pitchers were dealing with fewer reps in game-like situations to prepare for the rigors of facing big league lineups. And it took its toll on Astros starter Zack Greinke on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
Greinke, making his first start since he carried a shutout into the seventh inning of Game 7 of the World Series in October, wore out after 58 pitches and 3 1/3 innings in a 7-6 loss to the Mariners, who rallied for three runs in the eighth to snap a 15-game losing streak against Houston.
“Not too happy with anything,” Greinke said matter-of-factly. “Command wasn’t great, stuff wasn’t great, endurance wasn’t even good at all.”
Greinke gave up three runs and four hits and walked a pair. He was off the hook for the loss when red-hot catcher Martín Maldonado socked a two-run single in the fourth inning that gave the Astros a 5-4 lead. Through the first three games of the season, he has six RBIs. Reliever Chris Devenski gave up three runs in the eighth, and Seattle held on to win.
The Mariners teed off against Greinke in the first inning with consistent hard contact. J.P. Crawford’s grounder for the second out had a 106.3 mph exit velocity, but second baseman Jose Altuve made a great diving stop. Evan White’s RBI single was 107.8 mph and José Marmolejos hit a 393-foot fly ball to center that George Springer caught with a leap at the wall.
“The first inning, my stuff felt OK, but I threw too many pitches that were hittable over too much of the plate,” Greinke said. “And then the second inning, felt OK. Third inning, started getting tired and all the stuff got a lot worse in the third inning. I felt worse in the fourth. So I think that’s why I didn’t pitch much longer than that.”
Greinke got stretched out to 54 pitches in an intrasquad game in Summer Camp, and he compared Sunday’s 58-pitch effort against the Mariners to an early Spring Training start in terms of endurance. The lack of endurance was evident in his fastball, which averaged 87.7 mph Sunday. That’s down significantly from the 89.9 mph he averaged last year.
“After seeing today, I wouldn’t expect it to be great the next outing,” he said. “Hopefully, in the outing after that or the next outing after that, I hope to be close to where I’m happy … and hopefully get better the next couple of outings until then. There wasn’t much good stuff to say about today, pitching-performance-wise.”
The Astros could use Greinke to round into midseason form sooner rather than later, considering ace Justin Verlander suffered a forearm strain in Friday’s season-opening win over the Mariners and will be shut down for a couple of weeks.
“Our team is really, really good, especially the offense,” Greinke said. “Pretty confident we’ll be fine for that.”
The Astros close out their four-game series against the Mariners at Minute Maid Park by sending Josh James to the mound on Monday at 6:10 p.m. CT, live on MLB.TV. James appeared in 49 games for the Astros last year, all but one in relief, and he set the team single-season rookie record for strikeouts by a reliever with 99. Kendall Graveman will start for Seattle.