Zack Greinke continues to lead the D-backs' march to the postseason, and his return to steady dominance in 2017 might make him a National League Cy Young Award favorite by the time all's said and done.
Greinke outdueled Madison Bumgarner on Saturday night in San Francisco, throwing eight shutout innings of two-hit, eight-strikeout baseball. The veteran right-hander is now 17-6 with a 2.87 ERA and 208 strikeouts.
As the season enters its final weeks, the NL Cy Young Award race looks like it could come down to the triumvirate of Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer -- three of baseball's best pitchers over the last decade, and all currently aces of playoff-bound teams. With Greinke atop the rotation, the D-backs are in position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2011, the Nationals have clinched a second consecutive NL East title with Scherzer at the helm, and Kershaw and the Dodgers are once again headed to October.
All three rank among the top 10 in the league in the Triple Crown categories -- wins, ERA and strikeouts. Greinke is tied with Kershaw for the league lead in wins, and he ranks third in strikeouts and sixth in ERA. (Kershaw leads the NL in ERA, and Scherzer leads in strikeouts.)
Greinke has been the workhorse Arizona has needed all season. He's made 30 starts after his injury-hampered 2016, and he's thrown more innings than Scherzer and Kershaw. After Saturday's win, Greinke has 194 1/3 innings pitched, compared to 184 1/3 for Scherzer and 157 for Kershaw, who's missed time with a back issue for a second consecutive year.
This isn't quite the peak Greinke hit during his 2015 season, when he had a 1.66 ERA for the Dodgers and combined with Kershaw to form the most fearsome mound tandem in baseball. But it's a return to the ace form that eluded him a season ago during his first year in Arizona.
Greinke's strikeout total is the second-highest of his career, outmatched only by his 242 in 2009, when he won the American League Cy Young Award with the Royals. The only time he's won more than 17 games was 2015, when he went 19-3. He's on pace for his fifth season with an ERA under three, and his seventh season with more than 200 innings.
Greinke has a chance to become one of the few to win more than one Cy Young, and to win the award in both leagues. He'll have to outclass two pitchers with multiple Cy Youngs, and he just might do it.