After Cy Young-worthy season, Dodgers righty ready for NLDS Game 2
By Chris Haft
LOS ANGELES -- Zack Greinke typically doesn't receive a live scouting report such as the one the New York Mets essentially handed him in Friday night's National League Division Series opener at Dodger Stadium.
From the Mets' perspective, that probably was the last thing Greinke needed, given his considerable skills.
"I think we're capable of bouncing back because we've got Zack Greinke pitching tomorrow," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said after New York's 3-1 triumph in Friday's Game 1.
Greinke, who's scheduled to start tonight's Game 2 for Los Angeles (9 p.m. ET on TBS), usually spends the night before he starts watching left-hander Clayton Kershaw dominate lineups filled with right-handed batters in often-futile attempts by opponents hoping to gain a platoon edge. In fact, Kershaw faced 688 righties compared to 202 lefty swingers during the regular season. This does little for Greinke, who as a right-hander faces a much higher percentage of left-handed batters than Kershaw does.
This time was different. Greinke, who'll oppose Noah Syndergaard, had the privilege of watching three left-handed hitters who'll probably start Game 2 for the Mets: Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda. Seeing them swing should prove more valuable for Greinke than any analytics-stuffed report that the well-meaning folks in the Dodgers' baseball operations department offer him.
"They have more. I guess I don't even know how much more they have," Greinke said Friday, referring to the pregame information heaped upon him. "We had a bunch last year, too, and I've kind of just stuck with the same type of stuff I've always used."
Most of the time, Greinke's personal touch suffices.
Along with Kershaw and Chicago Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta, Greinke is a top candidate to win the National League Cy Young Award, an honor he captured in 2009 in the American League while pitching for Kansas City. As impressive as Greinke's basic statistics are -- a 19-3 record that generated a Majors-best .864 winning percentage, as well as leading MLB with a 1.66 ERA -- the story behind the numbers, as well as the numbers behind the numbers, are even more compelling.
Consider, for example, Greinke's ERA. It was the lowest by a qualified starter (minimum 162 innings) since Atlanta's Greg Maddux fashioned a 1.63 ERA in 1995. Moreover, Greinke's ERA never reached or exceeded 2.00 all season. He joined an elite trio of hurlers who have accomplished that since the end of the Deadball Era in 1920: Maddux (1994), Pedro Martinez (1997 with Montreal and 2000 with Boston) and Roger Clemens (Houston, 2005).
Greinke, who turns 32 on Oct. 21, recorded 26 starts in which he allowed two or fewer runs, earned or unearned. That's the highest number of such games since Houston's Mike Scott had 27 in 1986. However, Scott totaled 37 starts that year, five more than Greinke in 2015.
Also, Greinke's 0.844 WHIP was the lowest by a qualified starter since Martinez's 0.737 in 2000.
As it turns out, Greinke has learned plenty from watching Kershaw from the vantage point of the Dodgers dugout since he joined the club in 2013.
"If your pitches are that good, they can't do anything with them," Greinke said. "And that's what Kershaw has done ever since I've been here. So I've probably stopped trying to trick guys as much as I used to, and try to make my pitches as good as possible."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.