Dodgers’ Zack Greinke, Yasmani Grandal still working well together
Sighs of relief were exhaled around the visiting clubhouse at Chase Field on Sunday and not only because the Dodgers survived a ninth-inning meltdown by Chris Hatcher to claim their only victory in a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In the fifth inning of the 7-4 win, Yasiel Puig blasted his first home run of the season. Later in the game, Joc Pederson and Alex Guerrero launched the first home runs of their careers.
“It’s nice to get that out of the way,” Pederson said.
Whereas the home-run hitters viewed the game as the start of new stages of their seasons — or, in the cases of Pederson and Guerrero, their careers — starting pitcher Zack Greinke saw it as a continuation of something familiar and comfortable.
For the second time this season, Greinke was caught by newcomer Yasmani Grandal. And for the second time, Greinke was spectacular, this time blanking the Diamondbacks over seven innings.
“From the beginning, there haven’t been any rough patches at all,” Greinke said. “It worked really good today, but it’s almost expected.”
Greinke compared his working relationship with Grandal to that with A.J. Ellis, who was the Dodgers’ primary catcher for the previous three seasons.
“The same thing when I was throwing to A.J.,” Greinke said. “With Grandal, every time I’ve thrown to him, we’ve worked well together.”
This wasn’t entirely expected. When Grandal was acquired from the San Diego Padres in the off-season, he was known as a catcher to whom pitchers didn’t like to throw.
“It’s kind of interesting because of that,” Greinke said. “You’re paying attention to see what it’s going to be like. But, like I said, it’s been great. There was a little bit of a rumor, but he hasn’t shown anything but positives, not just to me. Every one of our pitchers has been impressed with him.”
Grandal was pleased to hear of Greinke’s early reviews.
“It kind of feels like I’m doing my job right,” Grandal said. “That’s what I want to do when you have a pitching staff like the one we have. It definitely feels good to know the pitchers are behind you.”
Greinke was virtually unhittable on this day, as he shut down the same Diamondbacks team that scored six runs against Clayton Kershaw the previous night.
Greinke (1-0) gave up five hits and no walks. He struck out seven and lowered his earned-run average to 0.69.
Greinke’s dominance provided a comfortable environment for Puig, Pederson and Guerrero to have breakout games.
Puig was two for 17 with six strikeouts in the Dodgers’ first four games and was benched in the fifth.
In the first inning of the game Sunday, Puig flied out. In the third, he walked. In the fifth, he sent an offering from Diamondbacks starter Josh Collmenter over the wall in left-center field.
Puig, who was one for five, wasn’t ready to declare his slump was over.
“I’m still trying to improve my swing,” he said in Spanish. “We’ll see what happens.”
Pederson’s home run came an inning later. Like Puig, Pederson entered the game in an offensive funk.
Pederson finished the day a triple short of the cycle, raising his average from .176 to .286.
Of his solo home run in the sixth inning, Pederson said, “It was a relief, you know?”
Guerrero also was a triple short of the cycle, his home run coming in the ninth inning.
Guerrero started at third base only because Juan Uribe and Justin Turner were injured the previous day. The start was the Cuban utility man’s first in the major leagues, as he spent the majority of last season at triple A.
He didn’t appear in a game until Saturday, when he replaced Uribe at third base.
“It’s hard enough for players who play every day,” he said. “It’s even harder when you barely play.”
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