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Greinke throws eephus, takes a seat (on field)

@brianmctaggart
August 23, 2020

The intention wasn’t for Astros pitcher Zack Greinke to throw a 53.5 mph pitch to Padres outfielder Trent Grisham. The fact Greinke did just that in the third inning Sunday afternoon -- and landed it in the strike zone -- only added to the enigmatic right-hander’s lore with the Astros.

The intention wasn’t for Astros pitcher Zack Greinke to throw a 53.5 mph pitch to Padres outfielder Trent Grisham. The fact Greinke did just that in the third inning Sunday afternoon -- and landed it in the strike zone -- only added to the enigmatic right-hander’s lore with the Astros.

In a month that saw Greinke sit with the cardboard cutouts at the Coliseum in Oakland during one of his starts and call his own pitches via hand signals and audible words from the mound, Greinke’s slow-arcing eephus pitch in the Astros’ 5-3 loss to the Padres at Petco Park might have been his most captivating and delightful 2020 moment yet.

And it was a mistake.

Box score

“It definitely wasn’t planned,” said Greinke, who allowed three runs and four hits in six innings but got a no-decision as the Padres completed a three-game sweep. “It worked out, but, hopefully, I don’t do that again anymore.”

Greinke, giving hand signals to catcher Martín Maldonado with two outs and no runners on base in the third, still managed to get crossed up with his catcher. Maldonado didn’t set up where Greinke anticipated, so he decided to throw a pitchout. Instead, the ball sailed over the middle of the plate for a called strike. Greinke followed with an 89 mph dart on the outside corner for a strikeout.

“He set up away and I knew we weren’t on the same page, so I was like, ‘Man, I was about to throw a pitchout.’ And then, I was like, ‘Maybe step off,' and I was like, ‘OK, no pitchout,’” Greinke said. “I don’t know what happened at the last half-second where I ended up throwing it as a strike.”

The pitch was the slowest thrown for a strike since the Yankees’ Mike Ford, a position player, got a swinging strike on Cleveland’s Roberto Pérez on Aug. 15, 2019. It’s the slowest pitch for a strike by an actual pitcher since Philadelphia’s Henderson Alvarez threw a 52.5 mph eephus for a called strike against Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies on Sept. 23, 2017.

As for Greinke, it’s the slowest pitch he has thrown since a 52.7 mph offering that he sailed over the catcher’s head with Chris Taylor of the Dodgers batting on Sept. 5, 2017. His previous slowest pitch for a strike was a 59.3 mph eephus to strike out Colorado’s Antonio Senzatela on July 5, 2019.

After striking out Grisham to end the third inning, Greinke gave up three runs on three hits and a walk in the fourth for the only damage the Padres could get against him. Four of the first five hitters reached that inning before Greinke asked the grounds crew to fix a hole in the mound.

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“Well, when I got out there, the mound was getting in worse shape each inning,” he said. “Somehow every single pitcher that pitched today used the same exact spot to pitch from. It was getting worse, and I thought about saying something before, but it’s getaway day and I didn’t want to delay the game, really.

“So I pitched and I don’t know if it was too bad at first, but when I was in the stretch I was going a little too quick and I was getting messed up with my foot and I was making a bunch of bad pitches and was thinking of moving on the rubber, which I do sometimes if there’s a bad spot on the mound.”

But Greinke hadn’t done that all year long, and with runners in scoring position, he didn’t want to take a chance. Instead, Greinke sat patiently on the grass behind the pitcher’s mound with his legs crossed while the Petco Park grounds crew worked on the mound.

“Then it got bad again in another inning or so,” he said. “That time I decided to switch spots on the mound instead of calling the guys out again. At that point, if I got someone else on base they were going to take me out, anyway. That would have been really bad for me to take a five-minute break and get taken out of the game right away, anyway.”

Indeed, the more Greinke pitches the better.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.