PHOENIX – Old friend alert.
After the Dodgers just dropped two-of-three at the hands of their rivals in San Francisco to fall five games behind in the National League west, the road gets rougher on Monday as they face former teammate Zack Grienke.
Los Angeles avoided Greinke earlier in the season when the Diamondbacks traveled to Dodger Stadium for a three-game set in April. It was during that visit that the 2015 Cy Young runner-up talked about making the move out of LA and facing his former team.
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"I have a house here still. It was a good baseball place," Greinke said of the City of Angels. "The more you do it, the more you get used it."
Greinke's departure from the three-time NL West Division champions was surprising to say the least, especially when the hometown club had the most money and resources to offer him.
"People say they have unlimited resources, but there's still a limit and the team has to do what's smart for the team," Greinke said of his thoughts on the front office's decision not to re-sign him. "You have to make the decision that's best for the team, that's their job."
Greinke was 51-15 during his three years with the Dodgers and had the best winning percentage of any pitcher in the big leagues over that span. His 2.30 ERA over three seasons in LA is the second best in all of baseball, only his former teammate Clayton Kershaw was better.
One thing for certain is that Greinke will definitely get up to face his former team on Monday night in the desert. The player that teammates in LA nicknamed "The Professor," is always candid with his desire to compete and beat people, including his former friends and teammates.
"Knowing Zack, I'm sure he spent a lot of time breaking us down and trying to figure out how he's going to attack each guy," his friend and former catcher A.J. Ellis said. "It's going to be a huge challenge."
Greinke is also one of the most candid and brutally honest guys you'll ever meet. He famously once told Ellis that the Dodgers should trade him if they want to get better, and his teammates in the visiting clubhouse remember his criticism of them strongly.
"He said I was 'an easy out' last year," Joc Pederson told SportsNetLA before the game. "That was his opinion, so I'm excited to face him."
Outfielder Scott Van Slyke agreed with Pederson.
"He would always critique our swings, so a lot of us want to show him we can hit," Van Slyke said. "We all know how good of a pitcher Zack can be when he's on. It will be a good challenge for us."
Indeed, the Dodgers will face a titanic-sized challenge in their former teammate on Monday in Arizona. Their offense has struggled in the past six games, and facing a perennial Cy Young candidate will not help matters.
Greinke struggled to start the season, but has been sensational in his last five starts going 5-0 with a 2.57 ERA including back-to-back shutouts and a complete game shutout against Tampa Bay in his last outing.
If Greinke carries over his consecutive scoreless outings and is more focused than normal to face his former team, it could be a long night in the hot desert for the Dodgers.