Zack Greinke finally delivers for the Angels
Zack Greinke wasn't fooling anyone, and he knew it.
The last time he pitched, Greinke was battered for six runs over six innings against the Tampa Bay Rays and took his second loss in five starts since joining the Angels late last month.
"I'm getting paid a lot of money to do better than I'm doing," he said after the game.
Friday night in Detroit, after four successive poor starts and no reasonable explanation for his struggles, Greinke finally delivered.
It didn't matter that he didn't survive the eighth inning or that he gave up a home run to Miguel Cabrera. He pitched precisely how the Angels hoped he would when they got him from the Milwaukee Brewers on July 27.
Greinke's 2-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers just might signal a turnaround for the right-hander at a time it's needed most. He never allowed more than one hit in any inning against the potent Tigers and twice kept them from scoring after giving up leadoff hits in the third and seventh innings.
Now, after going 3-7 and losing four in a row on their homestand, the Angels have won four in a row on the road – their first four-game winning streak since July 24-28. Funny game, isn't it?
It wasn't all Greinke, although he was clearly the most important reason the Angels were slapping backs and shaking hands at the end of the night. Howie Kendrick's two-run double in the sixth off Tigers starter Rick Porcello gave the Angels enough offense, and relievers Scott Downs and Garrett Richards closed out the game.
Richards, a rookie who started nine games this season, was called on to help a weary and overworked bullpen with one out in the ninth. He struck out out Delmon Young and Jhonny Peralta with overpowering stuff to earn his first big league save.
Greinke conceded he was trying to do too much in his previous starts, and it showed. After an encouraging first start for the Angels on July 29 against Tampa Bay (seven innings, two earned runs), he bottomed out, yielding 20 earned runs in 25 innings (7.20 ERA) in his next four starts.
But he seemed like a different pitcher Friday after allowing two base runners in the first inning. He retired 15 of 16 batters at one point and looked confident and poised, characteristics he didn't display previously.
"Any time he needed to make a pitch, he did," catcher Chris Iannetta told FOX Sports West. "The only time he made mistake was curveball to Cabrera (for a home run), but Cabrera is good hitter."
It's difficult to explain how or why the Angels have reversed course after playing so poorly at home. But their hitting has been consistent – they're third in the majors in team batting average (.274) and fourth in home runs (156) – and it's possible their pitching might again become a stabilizing force.
"That's baseball," Kendrick said. "Sometimes you're going to be down, but the biggest thing is to keep fighting. We're all playing loose again, and whatever happens happens. The right guys are stepping up at the right time."