Greinke hurls CG in Astros' 13-run onslaught

June 5th, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Astros starting pitcher Zack Greinke turned back the clock, shortstop Carlos Correa turned on the power display and catcher Martín Maldonado turned in the kind of performance that explains why he’s an invaluable asset to Houston’s success. 

Greinke threw his first complete game in more than four years, Correa walloped a pair of homers in a 16-hit attack, and Maldonado hit a grand slam to send the Astros to a 13-1 blowout win over the Blue Jays in the series opener Friday night at Sahlen Field.

Greinke (6-2) needed 102 pitches to toss his first complete game since April 19, 2017, and the first for an Astros pitcher since Justin Verlander no-hit the Blue Jays in Toronto on Sept. 1, 2019. The complete game was the 17th of Greinke's career and his first as a member of the Astros.

“I’ve had probably like five or six chances, at least, where I kind of [got] tired or for some reason just couldn't finish,” Greinke said. “Today I felt really strong and it kind of worked out. It was nice.” 

Here’s a closer look at how Greinke, Correa and Maldonado ruled the day:  

A change in Zack’s attack 

Greinke said some suggestions Maldonado made to him about pitch usage and sequencing a few weeks ago have paid off. In the five starts since, Greinke is 4-1 with a 2.37 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP, which came on the heels of three consecutive starts in which he lasted just four innings. 

“These last five games, we’ve been feeling a bit better with the stuff,” Greinke said. “The last five games, there hasn’t been any miscommunication. Everything is great. When he shakes [me off], he puts down what I wanted with the very next sign. It’s been really good. The biggest issue the last couple of games is when I’ve shaken [him off], I probably should have thrown what he called. We’ve been in a good rhythm these last five games.”

Maldonado didn’t want to give away any specifics of what differences have to be working, saying they’re going to keep sticking with the revamped game plan. 

“It’s very hard for me to tell you guys, just because he’s going to continue pitching,” he said. “It’s pretty much: do what he does good. The guy’s going to be a Hall of Famer. Sometimes, he gets away from who he was or who he has been his whole career. Pretty much along that line.” 

Greinke, who struck out three hitters and allowed one run on a solo homer to Randal Grichuk in the seventh, relied mostly on his four-seam fastball, which he threw 47 percent and averaged 89.9 mph -- up 1.2 mph from his season average. He threw his changeup 21 percent and slider 19 percent.  

“All my pitches were good, but for the game I was getting ahead and a lot of balls were hit pretty hard and there were no mistakes defensively,” Greinke said. “A lot of quick outs. Not like the softest hits, but it just worked out good, and I got two outs on the bases, which is nice, too. I kept the pitch count low for all those reasons.” 

Correa’s turnaround 

In his last 20 games, Correa is slashing .347/.484/.639 with five homers and 16 RBIs, drawing more walks (19) than strikeouts (11). He hit a homer in the fifth inning Friday and added a three-run shot in the eighth inning, giving him 10 homers and 32 RBIs this year.

Correa credited hitting coaches Alex Cintrón and Troy Snitker with suggesting a couple of weeks ago that he should get rid of his leg kick.

“I was kicking too high, and it was getting me in a bad spot,” he said. “They told me to do a gather step. I’ve been stepping before lifting the leg, and it’s keeping me a lot shorter, giving me more time to see the ball and drive it. From the moment I did it, it started paying off. I’ve been doing it since then.”

Maldonado comes through with the stick

Astros starting pitchers have a 2.54 ERA in the team’s last 22 games, allowing 91 hits with 39 walks and 127 strikeouts in 131 1/3 innings. Twelve of those have been quality starts, with the team going 14-8 in that stretch. Maldonado has started all but four of those games (the Astros went 1-3 in games he didn’t start).

His value to the team is in his game-calling and defense -- he threw out a runner trying to steal in the second inning Friday -- but his swing is coming around, too. Maldonado clubbed a grand slam in the sixth inning and added an RBI single in the five-run eighth, giving him five RBIs in the game and 14 for the season. He’s cut down his strikeout rate in the last few weeks as well.

“It’s good when you work so hard on a daily basis to have consistent at-bats,” he said. “I’ve been seeing the ball good and putting good swings on the ball. Finally, today, I happened to stun everybody, even me, looking for results. We’ll continue to have good at-bats and good swings. That’s the only thing I can control.”