LOS ANGELES – Zack Greinke walked off the mound to a loud standing ovation on Monday night at Dodger Stadium.
This was another answer to anyone who wondered how Greinke would handle being a center of attention in Hollywood, a $147 million free agent with a reputation for being a little eccentric.
The Cubs had no answers for Greinke – who was one out away from a complete-game shutout – or a star-studded team that has gone 47-12 since June 22. A 6-2 loss in front of 40,965 again showed the huge gap between these two historic franchises.
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“When he’s not stubborn and pitches to a game report, he’s pretty dang good,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said afterward.
Greinke (13-3, 2.86 ERA) notched nine strikeouts and didn’t allow a runner to reach second base until the eighth inning. Brian Wilson – the former Giants World Series hero with the big beard – struck out Donnie Murphy looking to get the final out for the Dodgers (77-54).
In a lineup that now revolves around Yasiel Puig (3-for-5 and a triple short of the cycle), Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez (14th home run), Greinke might have done the most damage in the fourth inning, breaking open a scoreless game.
After Jake Arrieta (2-3, 5.91 ERA) walked No. 8 hitter Nick Punto, Greinke lined a two-out, two-strike RBI single over the head of leaping shortstop Starlin Castro. Carl Crawford followed that with an RBI ground-rule double into the left-field corner.
“Flat out, just got outpitched tonight by one of the best in the game,” said Arrieta, who gave up four runs in five-plus innings. “The margin for error is very low against a guy like Greinke. He pitched a tremendous game and he put a hell of a swing on a curveball there and got himself an RBI knock.”
Greinke has a reputation for being a baseball gym rat, and he overlapped in Milwaukee during the 2011 season with Sveum, the Brewers hitting coach at the time.
“That’s a good hitter,” Sveum said. “I’ve been around him. He takes a lot of pride in his hitting, as much as his pitching, probably. So he worries about his mechanics hitting and what a pitcher’s going to throw. He sits soft with two strikes. That’s why he hits .340 as a pitcher.”
It won’t get any easier for the Cubs (55-76) on Tuesday night, when the Dodgers roll out another Cy Young winner in Clayton Kershaw.
“That’s going out on a limb,” Sveum said.