ATLANTA -- If there was ever a doubt that Zack Greinke was in the midst of another All-Star year, he showed that there shouldn't be in the D-backs' 3-0 win over the Braves on Saturday afternoon at SunTrust Park.In his longest start of the season, and arguably one of his
ATLANTA -- If there was ever a doubt that Zack Greinke was in the midst of another All-Star year, he showed that there shouldn't be in the D-backs' 3-0 win over the Braves on Saturday afternoon at SunTrust Park.
In his longest start of the season, and arguably one of his best, Greinke shut down Atlanta's offense over 7 2/3 innings, giving up just four hits. He retired 23 of the 27 batters he faced.
"We are at the point now that when Zack takes the mound," reliever Archie Bradley said, "we are going to get a pretty good outing."
And Saturday's start was as good as it has come for Greinke this season, with teammates after the game calling his performance "fantastic," "well-needed," "exceptional" and even "courageous." The adjectives could go on.
But for Bradley, he says that if there was ever a time to take notes on Greinke, the time would be now.
For Greinke is reinventing himself.
"I think every little kid out there should be watching the way Zack Greinke is pitching," Bradley said. "He's not throwing with a ton of velocity, but he is hitting spots and he's changing speeds."
Greinke didn't think he would be in the position he is now at the halfway point of the season after a lackluster Spring Training. His velocity was down and he felt like he wouldn't be able to get as many outs on his own as he had in years past.
But spring made way for summer for Greinke -- and it's about what he was able to do in the first half of the regular season. That means posting a 3.18 ERA and recording 124 strikeouts after fanning seven batters on Saturday.
Even more impressive, however, is what Greinke has been able to do since June. The D-backs are 7-2 in Greinke's last nine starts, including a personal five-game winning streak to notch 10 victories before the All-Star break.
Whereas Greinke in years past may have relied on overpowering batters, the 15-year veteran relied on keeping hitters off-balance with offspeed pitches combined with "exceptional" fastball command, according to D-backs manager Torey Lovullo.
"When he is rolling like he is, it's very impressive," Lovullo said.
But the game wasn't solely won by way of Greinke's arm -- even though it definitely helped. The D-backs put together enough offensive momentum to keep a lead and secure a win in the three-game series.
Up 1-0 after taking the early lead in the first inning, Jeff Mathis contributed a two-out RBI double off the left-field wall in the fourth inning before Ketel Marte added another insurance run with a solo homer in the sixth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The D-backs capitalized on some early command issues from Braves starter Sean Newcomb. The right-hander had trouble finding the strike zone as he walked three batters to load the bases in the first inning. With a sinking line drive to shallow left field, Steven Souza Jr. drove in the first run of the day.
"Those guys in front of me really set up that whole inning," Souza said. "[Paul Goldschmidt] worked a lot of pitches, [A.J. Pollock] had a great at-bat -- so without those, [Newcomb] is probably cruising through and feeling good."
After inheriting a pair of Braves runners in the eighth inning, Bradley struck out All-Star Ozzie Albies to record his 26th hold of the season -- the most by a pitcher before the Midsummer Classic since it became a statistic in 1969.
THINGS ARE LOOKING UP
The D-backs have clinched their 17th series win before the All-Star break. This accomplishment ties the 2012 team for the most series victories before the Midsummer Classic.
"Any time your pitchers are in control as we have been against a very potent offense, you are going to win some games," Lovullo said. "We are doing enough offensively and we are winning the games. That's the bottom line, but it's all around our pitching."
GABBING ABOUT GREINKE
"Our guy, our All-Star, goes out there and pitches into the eighth inning and was really in control of every inning. .… He was exactly what we needed on a hot and uncomfortable day." -- Lovullo
"That changeup is something else. His slider, he can spot up wherever he wants. He's really, really tough right now." -- Braves manager Brian Snitker
"He's changing the shape of his curveball. He's changing the shape of his changeup. He's setting guys up. He's doing things that you have to do when you kind of lose your velo." -- Bradley
Just one more game against the Braves at SunTrust Park at 10:35 a.m. MST on Sunday stands between the D-backs and the All-Star break. Patrick Corbin will get the start for Arizona after he was selected to the Midsummer Classic for the second time in his career. In his last four starts, Corbin has a 1.54 ERA. Julio Teheran will take the mound for the Braves.
Tori McElhaney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.