Angels Manager Mike Scioscia had some logic behind his pitching moves Saturday… (Ed Zurga / Associated Press )
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A lingering lower-back issue and a reluctance to push Zack Greinke past the 110-pitch range were among the factors contributing to Manager Mike Scioscia’s controversial decision to remove the starter in the ninth inning of Saturday night’s game against the Royals.
The Angels had a 2-0 lead when Scioscia pulled Greinke in favor of closer Ernesto Frieri, who within a span of four pitches gave up a two-run home run to Billy Butler and a walk-off homer to Salvador Perez for a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss.
“He’s had a little lower-back tightness on his left side that has hampered him for a couple of starts,” Scioscia said of Greinke, who is 4-0 with a 1.70 earned-run average in his last five starts. “He seems to be pitching through it and pitching well.
“We talked between innings, and he felt strong enough to start the ninth. But there’s no doubt that where he was his last few starts, getting into the 115- to 120-pitch range was something that was not going to be real comfortable.”
Greinke departed after his 109th pitch was hit for a one-out single by Alex Gordon. The right-hander who was acquired from Milwaukee on July 27 passed the 110-pitch mark in five of his first nine starts with the Angels, but he threw fewer than 100 pitches in his last six starts for Milwaukee.
Greinke passed 110 pitches in only three of his 21 games with Milwaukee, and he missed a start in July to “recharge his batteries,” according to the Brewers.
“He might have had more in his tank, but we wanted to give Ernie, who’s been really strong, enough wiggle room in case he gets behind in the count,” Scioscia said. “We didn’t want him to worry about having to get a fastball in the zone in a bad count. There are a lot of variables that go into it.”
Was the fact that Frieri had thrown 30 pitches while closing Friday night’s win over the Royals a factor? Yes, Scioscia said, in the decision to let Greinke start the ninth, but not so much in the decision to go to the hard-throwing closer.
Frieri, who had a 1.91 ERA and converted 19 of 21 save opportunities before Saturday, hadn’t pitched in four days before Friday, he was well rested, and he told the manager he “felt good” after Friday night’s outing.
“We had confidence Ernie would come in and get it done,” Scioscia said.
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