MILWAUKEE — Before the All-Star break, Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke became just the second pitcher since 2002 to start back-to-back games when an ejection in the first inning of last Saturday’s loss to Houston prompted Milwaukee to use him two days in a row.
But on Friday, Greinke did one better. With the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates in town, the Brewers’ ace was given the team’s first start after the All-Star break — making him the first pitcher to start three consecutive games in one season since the Chicago White Sox’s Red Faber in 1917. Faber, a Hall of Famer, pitched both games of a doubleheader on Sept. 13, 1917, and came back to start again the next day.
Unfortunately for Greinke, his third start went a bit too much like the first two.
In five innings, Greinke allowed five earned runs (six total), including two home runs, while giving up seven hits — though the Brewers rallied to win 10-7.
Prior to Friday’s game, Greinke’s three previous starts in July hadn’t gone that well either, with a combined 9.00 ERA in nine innings of work.
“I guess I didn’t pitch too good during (the three consecutive starts),” Greinke said on Friday. “I felt fine. I got tired early in the second game. . . . It’s understandable, I pitched the day before. . . . I wish the three games went better on my part, but we won two out of three, so you can’t be too upset about that.”
In today’s baseball landscape, a second — never mind a third — consecutive start is unheard of. And while the situation is one for the record books, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said before Friday’s game it was simply an unusual set of circumstances that led to Greinke getting every start for a complete week.
“It’s strange when you look at that,” Roenicke said. “It was weird. It was weird leading up to what happened (in Houston). You certainly can’t plan for that type of stuff.”
Considering the fact that Greinke is a product of his pregame ritual and preparation, that unusual set of circumstances may have affected his approach in the second and third games, Roenicke explained, leading to two less-than-stellar efforts.
“I think the second game he came in . . . and it was unusual for him to try and come back and pitch the next day,” Roenicke said. “I don’t think he was right. Today, I thought he was a little bit off again . . . I think he’s had some unusual things happen to him. I know he was excited about starting three games in a row, but it’s still unusual. It’s not something that you prepare right for in your mind.”
To Greinke, the chance to make history definitely was an exciting prospect. But he admitted that his performance in the trio of starts didn’t lend itself to being excited about the rare accomplishment.
“It’s pretty neat even though I sucked for the most part during it,” Greinke said. “Right now, it doesn’t feel as good as it will probably five years from now.”
Right now, Greinke will continue to deal with the trade rumors that swirl as Milwaukee draws closer and closer to the deadline. But for one night, the attention could be on the Brewers ace for a completely different reason.
Even his teammates took a moment to notice the unusual longevity.
“He’s starting again tomorrow,” Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun joked, “I don’t know if you guys knew.”