The last time a pitcher entered the All-Star break with 100 innings or more and an earned-run average as low as Zack Greinke’s, the mound was five inches taller than it is today.
Greinke continued his spectacular early-season run Thursday at Dodger Stadium, where he limited the Philadelphia Phillies to a solitary hit over eighth innings in the Dodgers’ 6-0 victory.
Greinke extended his scoreless streak to 352/3 innings and dropped his ERA to 1.39.
Greinke became the first pitcher since 1968 to have an ERA under 1.40 in 100-plus innings at this stage of the season.
Three pitchers did it that year: Bob Gibson (1.06) of the St. Louis Cardinals, Luis Tiant of the Cleveland Indians (1.24) and Don Drysdale of the Dodgers (1.37).
After the Dodgers increased their lead over San Francisco and Arizona to 51/2 games, Manager Don Mattingly made the case that Greinke should start for the National League in the All-Star game.
“I’m not much of a politicker, but it’s hard to be better than he is right now,” Mattingly said.
Greinke acknowledged he could earn the starting assignment, but downplayed how important it was to him.
“My family might get excited, but it doesn’t matter to me,” he said.
Greinke’s scoreless streak is the longest in baseball this season, but the right-hander said he wasn’t paying much attention to it.
“I don’t,” Greinke said.
Asked to compare Greinke’s current run to Clayton Kershaw’s scoreless streak last season, Mattingly asked, “Kersh had one last year?”
Mattingly was reminded of Kershaw’s 41-inning scoreless streak.
“Well, obviously, they’re both pretty good,” Mattingly said. “It’s funny because you guys look at the whole thing. We just kind of go start to start.”
Kershaw shut out the Phillies the previous day. Greinke could have done the same on this day, but Mattingly decided to remove him from the game after Yasiel Puig hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning to increase the Dodgers’ lead to 6-0.
“If it had stayed at four, we would have let Zack go back out,” Mattingly said. “Once we got to six, it didn’t seem like it was worth sending him back out.”
Another consideration: Right-hander Joel Peralta had pitched only once in the last eight days and Mattingly wanted to get him into a game.
Greinke said he wanted to finish the game, but added, “It didn’t hurt my feelings.”
The game was arguably the finest of the season for Greinke, who is heading to his third All-Star game.
Greinke struck out eight and walked none. Of the 25 batters he faced, only one reached base safely: Ryan Howard, who beat a shift and singled to left in the second inning.
Greinke didn’t blame his manager for shifting, saying Howard would have singled regardless of how the Dodgers lined up.
Plus, Greinke said, “He’s one of few guys that 100% you have to shift. It’s the smart thing to do by a mile in this situation.”
Greinke’s efficiency resulted in an unusually quick game. Only two hours and 14 minutes elapsed between the first pitch of the game and the last.
“I work a lot quicker when people aren’t on base,” Greinke said. “Guys get on base, I slow down a lot. That’s probably why the game went faster.”
Phillies interim Manager Pete Mackanin thought Greinke’s performance topped Kershaw’s on Wednesday.
“He’s the whole package, obviously,” Mackanin said. “He’s more impressive than the guy last night. We got one hit until the ninth inning. He had all his pitches working. He’s got command. He’s got location. He’s got velocity. He makes it look easy at times. A good competitor.”