Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke drives in a run against the Nationals with… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
When Zack Greinke made his last start for the Dodgers before Wednesday, the team had a winning record and was only half a game out of first place in the National League West. Then Greinke wrestled with the Padres' Carlos Quentin, breaking his collarbone, and things took a turn.
Three other pitchers followed the right-hander to the disabled list over the next 10 days and the Dodgers lost 19 of their next 31 games, falling to the bottom of a division they were supposed to win. So when Greinke stepped back on a major league mound for the first time in more than a month, the team was hoping for a return to those halcyon days of early April as much as it was hoping for a win.
And for one night at least they got both, with Greinke holding the Washington Nationals to a run on five hits over 51/3 innings and driving in what proved to be the winning run in a 3-1 win at Dodger Stadium.
BOX SCORE: Dodgers 3, Nationals 1
“It was fun,” Greinke said. “A good game all the way around.”
Mixing a low-90s fastball with an array of off-speed stuff, Greinke struck out four and did not walk a batter. He made 83 pitches, 50 of them strikes, in a performance that exceeded even the Dodgers expectations.
“It's pretty amazing what this guy was able to do tonight,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “For him to give you five innings, that tells you about how talented he is. He worked his butt off. He wanted to get back as soon as possible.”
And his return comes not a moment too soon for the Dodgers, who saw Greinke breeze through a 14-pitch first inning, retiring the side in order.
The Dodgers got him a lead in the bottom of the inning with Matt Kemp extending his season-high hitting streak to 14 games with a two-out double to right before scoring on Adrian Gonzalez's broken-bat blooper to center.
Greinke, a .179 lifetime hitter, drove in the second run himself, lining a two-out single in the second inning to score Andre Ethier.
Washington got one of those runs back in the fourth on Adam LaRoche's home run, but that was all Greinke allowed. A parade of relievers followed, with five of them combining to hold the Nationals to four hits in 32/3 scoreless innings.
The save went to Brandon League, but it was earned by Kenley Jansen, who wiggled out of a two-on, no-out jam in the eighth. The Dodgers then added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning on pinch-hitter Carl Crawford's scoring fly ball, securing their fourth win in their last six games at home. That matches their best homestand of the season, which came — you guessed it — four days before Greinke got hurt.
“It seemed like that started a string of injuries for us,” Mattingly said. “So hopefully it's, ‘Zack comes back [and] we're starting to get healthy again.'”
The challenge now is to keep the Greinke momentum going on the road, where the Dodgers have won only six games all season, fewest in the National League.