After Clayton Kershaw's sterling pitching performance on Thursday in Game 1 of the NLDS, the ball is now in Zack Greinke's hand as the Dodgers attempt to leave Atlanta with a 2-0 series lead. Greinke had a great year in his debut season as a Dodger, but he has struggled in the past during playoffs.
After recovering from a broken collarbone and settling down by mid-June, Greinke put up some fantastic numbers that would have rivaled the ace of any staff. He posted a 1.49 ERA in his final 11 starts with 66 strikeouts and an opponent batting average of .205.
It has been said repeatedly, but Kershaw and Greinke at the top of the Dodgers' rotation are the best one-two punch in baseball. Kershaw proved last night in Atlanta what an ace looks like during the playoffs, and gave the Dodgers early momentum in the NLDS. On Friday, it is Greinke's turn.
Greinke has only been to the playoffs once before in his career.
In 2011, the Brewers used him three times in nine games during the postseason. He did not have any strong starts, and only lasted six innings once. He combined for 16.2 innings with 25 hits, 12 earned runs, four walks, four home runs and 13 strikeouts. He did pull off one win, Game 1 of the NLCS, but he gave up six earned runs in six innings pitched in the Brewers' 9-6 win.
So here he is, two years later with the Dodgers in the NLDS against the Braves, a team he faced back in June and tossed seven innings of four-hit, shutout ball with seven strikeouts.
Can Greinke keep his hot streak from the regular season going into Atlanta for Game 2? Or are those 2011 postseason woes going to come back to haunt him?
All he has to do is pitch a better game than Atlanta's Mike Minor. Minor had the best season of his short career in 2013, posting a 3.21 ERA, 1.090 WHIP and averaging eight strikeouts per nine innings.
In his last four starts of the regular season, Minor combined for 25 innings pitched, and allowed 12 earned runs with 19 strikeouts. He also gave up seven home runs in his final six starts.
While it helps to look at Greinke's previous postseason numbers, he has been pitching way too well to count against him. Greinke is in one of the best stretches of his career and the added pressure of October baseball should not be able to throw him off his game. The Dodgers can win Game 2 if they give him three or four runs of support.