In what was probably the most anticipated debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers since Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke made his first appearance at Blue Heaven on Earth Friday night.
And he did not disappoint, leading the Dodgers to a 3-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. He gave up just two hits in six-and-one-third innings.
He retired the first five batters he faced before allowing a hard one-hopper with two outs that second baseman Mark Ellis couldn’t handle. The play was ruled a hit by the official scorer. He then proceeded to retire the next fourteen batters, in order, before giving up a seventh inning single to Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
Greinke was relieved by Paco Rodriguez after striking out six Pirates. Rodriguez and A.J. Ellis teamed up to catch McCutchen stealing then struck out Pedro Alvarez to end the inning.
Kenley Jansen stepped in for the set-up role and after giving up a lead off walk to Martin, reminded Dodger fans of his dominance by enticing the next two batters to strike out, flailing at the ball. He completed the inning by getting a fly out to center field, where Matt Kemp made the catch.
Brandon League took the mound for his first save opportunity of the season and pitched a perfect ninth, preserving the 3-0 victory.
On the offensive side of the game, the Dodgers looked like they were finally awakening for the season.
Andre Ethier hit his first home run of the season in the bottom half of the second, giving the Dodgers an early lead. Adrian Gonzalez went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and Matt Kemp finally got his first hit of the season – an RBI double of his own. The hit ended an 0-for-12 start to the season for Kemp.
”I’m excited about that one,” Kemp said. ”There’s more to come though, there’s more to come.”
When asked about how he felt his debut went, Greinke said, ”First impressions are important, but I’m just trying to get one out at a time. No matter who it is, they’re the most important batter at the moment. That’s kind of what I do, and hopefully everything takes care of itself.”
After signing a six-year, $147 million contract this past off-season, Dodger fans had become a bit nervous after seeing so little of him during Spring Training because he was on a limited pitch count after an inflamed shoulder and a case of the flu sidelined him for much of Spring, allowing him to pitch just 13 innings.
Even Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly acknowledged that he hadn’t seen much of Greinke.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was impressed by his outing.
”He was able to spot the fastball, threw the cutter, threw the two-seamer, four-seamer, the velocity was firm, and his slider was a good pitch,” Hurdle said. ”He threw two or three 3-2 breaking balls to keep you off the fastball. A handful of breaking balls that are 72-74 mph. ‘It was a tremendous show of control, and controlling bat speed. All those three-ball counts, (but) we couldn’t push him over the edge.”
Mattingly also sang Greinke praises. ”I think it’s rare to have that kind of touch with his breaking stuff. He was pretty amazing, really,” Mattingly said. ”He was like Felix. I’ve seen both those guys pitch when they were 19 and both of them had great command early, and great touch with their off-speed stuff early, and you don’t see that.”
After some rough patches, the Dodgers’ defense also seemed to step up. Greinke got some help from his defense. After a rough game the other day, when Just Sellers committed two errors in one inning, leading to two unearned runs, he robbed Jones of a hit with a diving, backhand stab of a sharp grounder in the fifth inning. After making the play, he bounced up and threw Jones out at first.
Former Dodgers catcher Russell Martin made his first appearance at Dodger Stadium since he signed with the Pirates after the 2010 season. He was met with a chorus of boos, which in this writer’s opinion, is a shame.
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