Zack Greinke deserved better with strong Game 7 performance
Zack Greinke pitched his ass off, the game of his life, and it was Game 7 of the World Series, the biggest stage in the sport.
His fastball these days tops out at 90, but, man, he had the Nats lunging all night, at those 90-mph fastballs, 67-mph curveballs, changeups and curves and sliders of varying speeds.
Greinke had given up one hit through six innings, needing just 67 pitches to get 18 outs, turning the game plan of manager A.J. Hinch on its head.
Hinch had assumed going in that he would be happy to get five from Greinke, then maybe go to ace Gerrit Cole for an inning, maybe two, three, to bridge to the back end of his bullpen.
Houston led 2-0 entering the seventh, and Greinke, cruising, was about to go third time through the Washington order.
Adam Eaton led off the seventh with a groundout to short.
Good start. One down.
Greinke fell behind Anthony Rendon, and then, BOOM!
Rendon took a misplaced second-pitch changeup into the cheap seats in left, and in a flash, it was 2-1.
A walk to Juan Soto brought out Hinch with the hook, replacing Greinke with Will Harris.
Harris got ahead of Howie Kendrick with a curveball, and then, BOOM!
Kendrick took the 1-0 cutter off the foul pole in right, and just like that, in a span of 10 minutes, a night-long 2-0 deficit was a 3-2 Washington Nationals lead.
And Greinke, having just pitched the game of his life, giving up two hits in six and a third, was erased from the history books.
“He was incredible. Absolutely incredible,” Hinch said after the 6-2 Nats Series-clinching win. “I thought he came into the game and got through the first, and that was good. I think he did everything we could have asked for and more. He executed pitches. He was in complete control of the game. He made very few mistakes. At the end, the home run to walk was really the only threat. He fielded his position incredibly well. He controlled contact. It’s just a super performance by him.”
And, sorry, A.J., an awful performance by his manager.
Hinch let himself get seduced by how easily things seemed to be going for Greinke, who had only gone past the fifth in one of his 2019 postseason starts.
He had Cole in the bullpen, on short rest, yes, but, still, Cole.
Hinch seemed to concede afterward the mistake that he made in leaving Greinke in just a little longer than he should have.
“We asked him to do more today than he had done, and pitched deeper into the game more than he had done in the entire month of October. I wanted to take him out – a bat or two early rather than a bat or two late,” Hinch said.
“Kendrick and Cabrera was where I had really focused on Will Harris at that point. Will has been tremendous for us. I knew I had (Roberto) Osuna, I knew I had Gerrit if need be. Will coming in to spin the breaking ball, he got the swing-and-miss, then he hit a ball off the foul pole in the right field, and off they go.
“It’s a decision I’ll have to live with,” Hinch said. “I’ll think about it. And I don’t know what would have happened had I left him in. But that was kind of where I targeted based on where the game was going and what we had available to us.”
Story by Chris Graham