Greinke pitches LA to NLDS home-field edge
LOS ANGELES -- Zack Greinke earned the National League ERA title and the Dodgers clinched home-field advantage in the NL Division Series by beating the Padres, 2-1, on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, in Greinke's career-best 19th win.
The Dodgers will face the Mets in the NLDS, with Game 1 scheduled for Friday.
"It's nice, as far as knowing where your travel is going to be, what day to leave, what day you're going to play," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "It solidifies some of the variables."
Greinke lasted eight innings, allowing only one run on four hits while striking out eight. The Dodgers got on the board immediately in the first inning with a solo home run from Justin Turner, then added another run on a double-play grounder by Adrian Gonzalez in the fourth.
Robbie Erlin pitched well in the loss for San Diego. In his third start of the season, Erlin allowed two runs in seven innings and struck out four. It's the second consecutive solid outing for the 24-year-old, as he pitched seven shutout innings in his last start.
"He competed head-to-head with a Cy Young winner in this environment, playoff atmosphere. He was nothing short of sensational, and he didn't have his best stuff," said Padres interim manager Pat Murphy of Erlin.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Work through trouble: Greinke was sharp all night and the Padres only had one inning with multiple hits. In the sixth, San Diego knocked two singles up the middle to put the tying run on second base with one out, but Greinke responded by striking out Jedd Gyorko and Brett Wallace back-to-back to get out of the inning.
"It was typical Zack. Every time he got into a little bit of a jam, he got out of it," Mattingly said.
Going (real) deep: Padres catcher Austin Hedges, who is from right down the road in Tustin, had a single in his first at-bat Saturday. He got a lot more mileage out of his next hit -- a 425-foot home run, as projected by Statcast™. It was his first homer since July 18, and the first that Greinke had allowed since Sept. 18.
"He put a great swing on a good pitch. He had good at-bats all night. Looked like he was playing with a chip on his shoulder. That's the best I've seen him play. He's capable of that. The future is bright. He was great tonight," Murphy said of Hedges.
Milestone achieved: Greinke came back out for the eighth inning with 95 pitches and proceeded to reach a personal milestone. He struck out pinch-hitter Derek Norris to lead off the inning for his 200th strikeout of the season. It's his second 200-K season with the Dodgers in three years and the fifth time in his career he has hit that mark. Greinke would finish off the inning without allowing a baserunner and received a huge ovation from the Dodger Stadium crowd as he returned to the dugout.
"This year, I haven't really paid attention to strikeouts at all," Greinke said. "In years past, it would be a big deal, but I didn't really pay attention this year. Just was trying to get outs. That's all I really pay attention to."
Fully extended: Injuries to outfielders Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton in the last week have forced the Padres to get creative with the lineup. That meant giving utilityman Alexi Amarista his second start in left field on Saturday. He responded with a diving catch to rob Adrian Gonzalez of extra bases.
"A lot of it was seeing guys dive into the plate. They get comfortable, to where you need to go inside, not just for strikes, but off the plate. I definitely took that into this start, mixing it up and keeping them guessing." -- Erlin, on what he learned from a conversation with pitcher James Shields last month that has helped him of late.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Padres' starting lineup on Saturday included just two players with more than three years of big league service time -- center fielder Melvin Upton Jr. and Amarista. Injuries in the final week of the season have forced the team to play younger players.
Padres: It will be a bullpen day Sunday in the regular-season finale for the Padres, as lefty Frank Garces (0-0, 5.00 ERA) gets the start in a 12:10 p.m. PT start. Garces likely will throw one inning and be followed by several relievers, as the team wants to get one last look at several bullpen arms on the roster.
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the final game of the regular season in pursuit of a personal milestone. Kershaw has struck out 294 batters this season, tops in the Majors, and he will have three to four innings to become the first pitcher since 2002 to reach 300 strikeouts in a season. First pitch is at 12:10 p.m. PT.
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