HOUSTON -- Closer Ryan Pressly called him an artist. Infielder Taylor Jones compared him to a mechanic. Astros manager Dusty Baker is just glad he’s on his team.
“That’s what aces do,” Baker said. “Guys like him and [Max] Scherzer and Johnny Cueto and these guys, they stop the bleeding and we were about bled out going into today’s game. Last night was a big-time downer. I was sleepless in Seattle, probably like half the team was. The losing streak had grown sort of a life of its own.”
Greinke (2-1) needed only 91 pitches to deliver the longest start by an Astros pitcher this year, giving way in the ninth to Pressly. The Astros closer, in his first chance for a save this year, retired the top of Seattle’s order in succession to close out the win.
“When you have someone as good as [Pressly], I have more confidence in him getting the guys out than I do of myself, especially that late in the game,” Greinke said.
Pressly appreciated the vote of confidence.
“That’s a pretty nice compliment coming from him, a guy that knows how to pitch and knows what he’s doing out there,” he said.
Greinke had no issues with Baker giving the ball to Pressly in the ninth considering it would have been the fourth time the Mariners’ lineup would have seen him. Seattle certainly had few answers the first three times through the order, though, with Greinke striking out six batters and allowing four singles.
“Sometimes you pitch and you think it’s really hard and today it was fun,” Greinke said. “Things were happening the way I wanted them to happen. It was nice. When it happened to me the last couple of times, you never know if it’s the last time it’s going to happen. It’s a nice feeling when you have a good game.”
Two of the hits off Greinke came to José Marmolejos and Evan White to start the fifth, putting Greinke in his only trouble of the night. After Dylan Moore lined out, J.P. Crawford ripped a 103.6 mph line drive at Greinke, who somehow managed to glove it. With the runners retreating back to their bases, Greinke accidently dropped the ball.
“I thought it was like 112, 115 mph,” Greinke said. “They said it was only 104, but it was hit really fast.”
The six-time Gold Glove winner calmly picked up the ball and pump-faked to first base and then second base before deciding to throw to third, starting an inning-ending 1-5-6 double play. The Mariners got one more baserunner the rest of the game.
“I was going to second and then I saw I could still get him at third,” Greinke said. “Luckily, we got it fast enough to get a double play.”
Greinke, who proclaimed after his last start Monday he wouldn’t throw his ineffective slider any more, held true to his word. He relied on a fastball, sinker, changeup and slow curve, of which he changed speeds masterfully throwing to catcher Jason Castro for the first time. But Greinke said the lack of a slider wasn’t really by design. Still, it was the first time he didn’t throw a slider in a start since Sept. 28, 2013.
“Greinke, he was on top of his game,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We've seen him do that before, and when he's living on the edges like that, and the back and forth with the slow curveball, he's tough to get. He just didn't make a whole lot of mistakes. And I know we had the one shot I think it was the fifth, we kind of had the crazy double play -- J.P. smoked the ball back at him. And that was about it. We didn't put a whole lot of pressure on him tonight, but you’ve got to give him credit. He pitched a heck of a ballgame.”
How important has Greinke been to the Astros this year? He owns all three of the quality starts thrown by Astros pitchers through 14 games.
“I hate to think where we’d be without Greinke,” Baker said.