Zack Greinke has had a season most pitchers would dream of: a career-high 17 wins, fifth-most in the National League. A 2.71 ERA and 207 strikeouts, most since his Cy Young award-winning season with Kansas City in 2009.
On most teams he would be the ace. With the Dodgers, he often has been an afterthought.
Clayton Kershaw, the major league leader in wins, ERA and the favorite to win both the Cy Young award and the league MVP, draws most of the focus around the Dodgers. And left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, whose season has been marked by injury and uncertainty, has also gotten his fair share of attention.
In between them Greinke has simply gone out and won – quietly, efficiently, effectively. Which is fine with Greinke, who abhors the media spotlight almost as much as he does facing Mike Trout with the bases loaded.
In fact, it took just two questions for him to tire of Friday morning’s press conference.
“These questions are going to get better?” he complained with a sigh.
But in the Dodger clubhouse Greinke’s contributions haven’t escaped notice.
“We consider ourselves having two No. 1s when you have Zack,” Dodger Manager Don Mattingly said. “So he’s really important.”
He certainly will be Saturday when he starts against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. The right-hander started against St. Louis twice in last year’s playoffs, holding the Cardinals to four runs in 15 innings, striking out 14 and walking just two. For his career he’s 9-4 with a 3.17 ERA in 14 games against St. Louis.
Despite his personal success, the Cardinals have twice knocked Greinke out of the postseason – in 2011 when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers and last fall with the Dodgers.
“It’s tough losing to the same team twice,” he said.
Still, Greinke said he’s approaching Saturday’s game as if it were just another regular-season start.
“It’s pretty similar. I guess you’re just a little more focused,” said Greinke, who is pitching in the postseason for the third time. “The guys usually say something about, like, experience in the playoffs is good. I think that’s true because the first time you kind of don’t know what to expect. I know the second time I felt a lot more comfortable out on the mound and just kind of staying with your normal pitching.
“The first time it’s kind of tough because you might try a little too hard. The second time was easier and hopefully this time will be even better.”