More times than not, results in Spring Training are dismissed and quickly forgotten once the regular season rolls around. Clayton Kershaw has served as the prime example of a player who put a rough spring behind him.
Kershaw finished last spring with a 9.20 ERA and all he did was go on to lead the Majors in wins, complete games and other categories en route to being named the National League MVP and winning a third Cy Young Award.
Since signing Zack Greinke prior to the 2013 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers have had the luxury of two aces forming a one-two punch at the top of their starting rotation. The duo switched places of sorts during Spring Training as Kershaw turned in starts more in line with what’s expected of him whereas his right-handed teammate struggled.
Greinke got off to a slower start than other pitchers, sidelined briefly after receiving an annual lubricating injection in his throwing elbow. Whether that was to blame or Greinke’s tinkering with a new slider, he wasn’t his usual self.
Fast forward now to three starts into the regular season and Greinke is 3-0 with a 1.30 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. What can possibly explain his success? Greinke said he’s more relaxed than in Spring Training, according to ESPN’s Mark Saxon:
I was getting stressed out in spring training. I was pitching bad and nothing was working as planned,” Greinke said. “So, I just stopped worrying about it so much.”
With the Dodgers mired in a three-game losing streak and looking to recover from being swept by the San Francisco Giants, they headed south to open a series with the San Diego Padres. The same Padres team Greinke has come to dominate since joining the Dodgers.
Benefitting from reliable defense, a timely shift and getting a ball to bounce in his favor here and there, Greinke turned in seven innings of shutout baseball and tallied seven strikeouts in the process. It was the second time this season Greinke has pitched seven innings and Friday’s performance was certainly welcomed by a bullpen that was in need of a light night’s work.
His only real brush with danger came in the second inning when the Padres loaded the bases with no outs. Greinke responded by getting consecutive strikeouts and was on the right end of a shift as Wil Myers’ line drive was caught by Howie Kendrick, who was positioned just off second base.
Friday’s win improved Greinke’s mark to 21-1 with a 1.88 ERA against NL West opponents since joining the Dodgers and he remained perfect when facing the Padres, now 5-0 with a 1.58 ERA. Meanwhile the Dodgers have won 23 of 31 games that Greinke has started with the team coming off a loss.
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