Prior to the series opener between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers, Zack Greinke said he was looking forward to batting against Clayton Kershaw. When that moment finally came, in the third inning, Greinke had a difficult time seeing the ball and his former teammate.
“I didn’t see the ball really good. My eyes were kind of blurry when he was pitching for some reason,” Greinke said after suffering the loss. “But then I didn’t see him good, either. I don’t know, I wish I saw more. Definitely wasn’t any close to hitting him.”
When pressed further, Greinke said that was the only instance where he had blurred vision. “I just wasn’t seeing the pitches real good,” he reiterated. “I think part of his success is guys don’t see it out of his hand.”
Kershaw didn’t particularly enjoy going head-to-head against a close friend, but was mindful of what was to follow had Greinke gotten the better of him at the plate. “You’d definitely hear about it if you give up a hit,” Kershaw said. “So I tried not to do that.”
The first meeting in what was the most expensive pitching matchup in MLB history went heavily in Kershaw’s favor. He retired the first 10 batters faced, later retired another 12 in a row, and carried a shutout into the ninth inning.
Kershaw lost his shutout on a one-out RBI double, and that also prevented him from going the distance for a 25th career complete game. Greinke, on the other hand, was again knocked around in a return to Dodger Stadium.
Whereas last season Greinke surrendered a career-high five home runs in his first start back at Dodger Stadium, Friday’s loss was a byproduct of the Dodgers spraying hits all over the field.
“I felt OK. Mainly good at-bats by them. They seem to do that a lot against me, even in the good games I threw, it was a tougher game,” Greinke said. “[Friday] was the same thing. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever pitched, but their at-bats are super quality, hit the ball hard a lot, and it was a good game by them.”
Los Angeles knocked Greinke around to the tune of 10 hits and five runs. They also drew three walks, two of which were by Corey Seager. The 2016 National League Rookie of the Year has two home runs and has reached base in 10 of 13 career plate appearances against Greinke.
“Seager, I made some really good pitches that were barely balls,” Greinke said. “He just didn’t swing at them. I threw three that were super close.”
In four starts against the Dodgers since signing with the Diamondbacks, Greinke is 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA and 1.72 WHIP. He’s surrendered six home runs 22.2 innings pitched, though does have 20 strikeouts.
“I think there’s just familiarity,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said when asked what may be behind his team’s success. “A lot of these guys are his former teammates, and others have seen him a lot in the division.
“So it’s knowing what his strengths are, his weaknesses, what he does and doesn’t like to do. It’s about if he makes a mistake up, we’ve got to take advantage. Tonight, we did.”
Greinke attributed some of it to the Dodgers being a veteran team that’s able to lay off pitches out of the zone. “They’re an older, smarter team. They’ve seen a lot of good junk pitches,” he said.
“So I don’t trick them as much as other teams. Even their young guys take good at-bats against me. … I should be able to keep it closer than I did.”