Greinke cruises in G7 start -- until his exit in 7th

October 31st, 2019

HOUSTON -- The Astros acquired at the Trade Deadline for exactly this reason. They had their two aces, and they wanted one more for those critical games late in October with everything on the line.

In Game 7 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday night, Greinke delivered, again and again, carving up the Nationals for most of his 6 1/3 innings, in the Astros’ most efficient outing of the postseason. It proved to be not quite enough, as the Nats went on to win, 6-2, to capture the World Series championship. But it wasn't for lack of anything Greinke brought to the mound with him. He pitched plenty well to lead Houston to a win. It just didn't happen.

"He was incredible. Absolutely incredible," manager AJ Hinch said. "I think he did everything we could have asked for and more."

Greinke was a model of consistency and grittiness, holding the Nationals scoreless for the first six innings. The right-hander gave up a one-out home run to Anthony Rendon in the seventh, then he walked Juan Soto before getting lifted with the Astros clinging to a 2-1 lead. However, reliever Will Harris promptly gave up a home run to Howie Kendrick, putting Washington ahead, 3-2.

Greinke's final line read two runs allowed on two hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

How effective was Greinke to start? In Game 3, the veteran righty threw 65 pitches through three innings. In Game 7, he threw only 28 over that same span.

"I was pitching good," Greinke said, asked about the quick pace. "They've got a good lineup, especially the top of the order. It's tough to get through, no matter one time, two times, three times. They have really good hitters up there."

Greinke faced the minimum through four, partly because of his near-perfect execution of all of his pitches -- especially his curveball, which ranged from 66-83 mph.

“That's why we got him, for him to do things like that,” George Springer said.

Houston's rotation in 2019 contained at least two pitchers considered future Hall of Famers -- Justin Verlander, who will probably win the American League Cy Young Award this year, and Greinke, who, because of his quiet demeanor, perhaps doesn't garner the same kind of national attention as his contemporaries.

But Greinke's entire body of work since he debuted with the Royals in 2004 has been on pace with the best pitchers of his generation. His Game 7 performance, while maybe not historic, was a nice addition to an already strong Hall of Fame resume.

“I thought he was going to go complete game, with the way he was pitching,” catcher Robinson Chirinos said. “His pitch count was low, he was hitting his spots. I told [Martin] Maldonado, it was the best I had seen him since we pitched in Seattle late in September.”

How does Greinke rate among the game’s best pitchers? Consider where he stands in the top 100 list of career WAR. Greinke is 39th at 66.7, according to Baseball-reference, ahead of, among others, Hall of Famers John Smoltz (40th; 66.4) and Roy Halladay, who is ranked 44th at 65.4 and was elected to Cooperstown on the first ballot last year.

In fact, only five pitchers ahead of Greinke on this list aren't in the Hall of Fame.

Greinke also may be one of the most complete pitchers in history. Defense doesn't get hurlers enshrined in the Hall of Fame, but if he does make it, his fielding abilities will surely be mentioned. The five-time Gold Glove Award winner's performance in Game 7 sent a hearty reminder of just how good he is in this area.

Greinke served as his own on-field vacuum, scooping up every ground ball hit near him.

By the end of the fourth, Greinke had four assists, and he finished with five. The most impressive? Arguably in the second, when he snared a Kendrick comebacker and made an accurate throw to José Altuve at second base to begin a double play.

Greinke is the first pitcher with five assists in a World Series game since Greg Maddux in Game 2 of the 1996 World Series between the Braves and Yankees.

"He was in complete control of the game,” Hinch said. “He made very few mistakes. At the end, the home run to walk was really the only threat. He fielded his position incredibly well. He controlled contact. It's just a super performance by him."