Angels waste a brilliant effort by Greinke
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- There was never a doubt in Mike Scioscia's mind that Zack Greinke was done after the eighth inning Thursday night. He had thrown 109 pitches to the Texas Rangers; it was enough.
So Scioscia, the Angels manager, pulled him from the game. But you had to wonder: Was it a decision the Angels will regret when the season is over?
We may never know. But after Greinke left, after closer Ernesto Frieri lost the game to the Texas Rangers, after the Angels saw their playoff chances drift farther away, it was the one question that lingered.
A spectacular start by Greinke went up in smoke when Frieri gave up a two-run homer to Adrian Beltre in the ninth inning that sent the Angels to a 3-1 loss. Their path to the American League wild card is getting more difficult by the day -- it's now 4½ games with 12 to play.
"I don't think anything has changed as far as what we need to do," Scioscia said. "It's a tough loss. We don't have that margin of error, that luxury of losing many more games. But we're capable of getting on a run."
Time is running short. The Angels are 4-6 in their last 10 games, and unless they can put together a significant winning streak over the next two weeks, they're liable to fall short of the postseason for a third consecutive season.
Greinke has been a dependable contributor down the stretch, winning four of his last five starts, and he was brilliant again Wednesday against Rangers starter Yu Darvish. Each gave up just one run through eight innings, but Scioscia decided that 109 pitches was Greinke's limit.
Greinke, quiet and introspective afterward, offered no argument.
"I just pitch as long as I can," he said. "We talked about that stuff when I first got here and what I feel best in, then he makes his decisions from there."
Since arriving in a trade-deadline deal with the Milwaukee Brewers on July 27, Greinke hasn't thrown more than 115 pitches in any of his 11 starts. He maxed out at 118 pitches in one start for the Brewers in May.
It would have been tempting for Scioscia to let him start the ninth, but he never gave it a thought.
"Zack got to a certain point and pitched a terrific ballgame," Scioscia said, "but he was getting to a pitch count that's a little uncomfortable. It's not worth anyone extending themselves and getting to a certain point where they're setting themselves back or risking injury."
Greinke did not argue the point, either during the game or after.
"I don't make those decisions," he said. "I respect his decision."
But you had the feeling this game would not end well for the Angels. Last Saturday night, Frieri wasted a 2-0 lead in Kansas City by giving up two ninth-inning home runs in a crushing 3-2 loss.
This time, after allowing a single to Michael Young to start the ninth, he left a 2-and-1 slider up in the zone that Beltre crushed into the night.
"That was the pitch I wanted to throw," said Frieri, a fastball pitcher. "He hit it, so what? Every pitch I make is because I want to throw it. He's a good hitter. That happens."
Greinke would not say he was tired after the eighth, nor would he say he felt fit enough to start the ninth. When Scioscia told him that Frieri was coming in, Greinke accepted it.
"The main thing is, Frieri's been pitching great all year," he said. "His job is the ninth inning. Scioscia's smarter than me."
Smarter maybe, but it's a decision that may haunt the Angels when the season is finally over.