The more he pitches, the more Zack Greinke looks like someone the Angels can ride all the way through September. And maybe into October.
They might have to.
Even before Greinke won his third consecutive start by beating the Oakland A’s 6-1 Tuesday night in Oakland, the Angels were deciding whether ace Jered Weaver would be pushed back and miss his next schedule start Friday night against the Detroit Tigers.
Weaver was struck on the shoulder by a line drive off the bat of Dustin Ackley last Sunday in Seattle. At this point, it’s possible manager Mike Scioscia might give the right-hander a few additional days to fully recover, which means he wouldn’t pitch until next week.
It also means Greinke’s performance against the A’s was doubly important. This is a time when every game carries maximum importance, and now it’s apparent the Angels have a starter they can rely on every fifth day besides Weaver.
Greinke gave up just four hits and one run in seven innings of a close game that the Angels eventually won easily. They scored two runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth, winning for the 11th time in 14 games and stopping the A’s for a second straight game.
The white-hot A’s had won nine games in a row before the Angels arrived, but there’s little doubt the Angels are back in the race, at least for the American League wild card.
They jumped past the Detroit Tigers and reached a season-best 10 games over .500 for the first time since July 31. Only 3½ games separate them from a wild card playoff spot, but only three teams are ahead of them since it appears that either the New York Yankees or Baltimore Orioles, who are currently tied, will win the AL East.
In his past three starts, Greinke has allowed just four earned runs in 21 2/3 innings, a 1.66 ERA. This is the same guy who conceded he was being paid too much money to be pitching so poorly after an Aug. 19 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
But he has turned it around. He is mixing up his pitches, staying ahead of hitters and keeping his walks down. There was no comparison between this start and his last one against the A’s on Aug. 8 when he gave up four runs in five innings of a 9-8 Angels loss.
“This is obviously 180 degrees from his start earlier here in Oakland,” manager Mike Scioscvia told FOX Sports West after the game. “You could see it coming his last couple of starts, finding his release point. He did a great job of commanding the counts better. Outside of the home run (by Brandon Moss in the seventh) and the long seventh inning, he threw the ball exceptionally well.”
Greinke had a tenuous 2-1 lead after he departed, but his offense ensured the victory behind big hits from Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo. They combined for two runs and three RBIs.
Mike Trout, who won the AL rookie of the month award for a fourth consecutive time, added two hits and one RBI to keep his lead in the league batting race over Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera. Trout is hitting .333 to Cabrera’s .330.
But really, batting titles and monthly awards don’t matter much at this point. There’s a race, and with Greinke pitching well, the Angels are still in it.