Zack Greinke, welcome to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It may have taken a little longer than expected, but after throwing a complete game, 2-hit shutout over the Rockies on Saturday, Greinke showed everybody why the Dodgers threw $147 million at him this past offseason. That 1-2 punch with Clayton Kershaw at the top? Now it looks even better.
The Dodgers scored in the first and never looked back. Skip Schumaker got the start in right for an injured Yasiel Puig, and he doubled leading off. Mark Ellis took a walk, and immediately the Dodgers were in business. Adrian Gonzalez's slow grounder advanced both men up a base, and Hanley Ramirez scored one on a groundout, making it 1-0.
From there, the Greinke Show took over. The first 13 hitters for the Rockies were all retired on 10 groundouts, 2 popups, and a strikeout. On a 2-2 count to Todd Helton in the fifth, he lined a clean single to left, ending any thought of a no-hitter.
Even with Greinke dealing, this was still anybody's game because of Tyler Chatwood, who was fantastic as well. Chatwood gets credited with a complete game, tossing eight innings and giving up one run on four hits, one walk, and four strikeouts. He quitely has a very good 2.56 ERA.
With his pitch count manageable, Greinke was given the chance for the shutout by taking the hill in the ninth. Chase Blackmon pinch-hit in the pitcher's spot and grounded out. Greinke got the next two on strikeouts, with Dexter Fowler swinging, and DJ LeMahieu looking on... um, a generous outside corner.
Two starts ago Greinke gave up five runs in five innings against the Rockies, with a whopping seven walks, and his ERA stood at 4.30. Yet, because of a suddenly hot offense, he got the win. That start came right after giving up 12 hits and four runs in seven innings against the Phillies, but again, he got the win.
Even though the wins were coming, he still wasn't pitching anything close to what he was capable of. To his defense, he had a quirky start to the season with a slight elbow issue, then the brawl in San Diego which broke his collarbone. Did that affect him longer than people realize? Probably.
As the Dodgers have heated up, so has Greinke. In his last two starts against the Diamondbacks and Rockies, he's combined to toss 16 scoreless innings, giving up only four hits, three walks, and 16 strikeouts. It's hard to top that, even for someone like Kershaw. He's locating and mixing speeds extremely well, just as the old Greinke used to do.
Even more good news is that Greinke is traditionally a better pitcher after the All-Star break, so he'll look to improve upon his 3.49 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, which certainly seems possible. The start against the DBacks came on the road, and we all know how rough life has been away from home in his career. If he can build on that start, then who knows what kinds of numbers he can post. Should be fun to watch.
As for the Dodgers, that's now 14 of 17, and it came with a starting outfield of Jerry Hairston, Andre Ethier, and Schumaker (Carl Crawford sat out with a bad back). Their offense has cooled off the last couple of nights, so I suppose it's a good sign that you can still win a game after scoring one run in two games. Dominant pitching and defense will give you some wins you probably don't deserve.
The first half ends on Sunday, as Ricky Nolasco gets his second start with the Dodgers, and first one in LA. The Dodgers have guaranteed at least a .500 record, as they are 47-46 right now. One month ago at this time they were 28-38. Wow, what a difference a month can make in the Major League season.