Zack Greinke continues mastery of A's despite diminishing velocity

Zack Greinke continues mastery of A's despite diminishing velocity

OAKLAND -- When Zack Greinke won the Cy Young Award 10 years ago with the Kansas City Royals, his average fastball velocity was 94 mph. Now at the age of 35, the right-hander is down in the high-80s, yet somehow just as effective.

Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum, Greinke breezed through the A's lineup for seven innings -- allowing just one run on four hits -- as Houston salvaged the final game of the series 4-1.

"The fastball command was actually really good besides a couple of batters," Greinke said. "The rest was good too, but things were playing off the fastball."

Greinke improved to 7-2 against Oakland for his career with a 2.97 ERA. The veteran painted the corners of the strike zone with all of his pitches, mixing speeds and locations impeccably to keep the A's off-balance all afternoon.

"He just knows how to pitch," said A's outfielder Chad Pinder, who went 1-for-4 in the loss. "He uses every inch of the plate. He's in, he's out, he's mixing his pitches and rarely throwing back-to-back pitches. He just knows what he's doing. He's a great pitcher."

Oakland starter Brett Anderson knew he wouldn't have any margin for error facing Greinke. The A's left-hander took the loss, allowing four earned runs in five innings, and heaped high praise on his counterpart.

"He can throw anything in any count," Anderson said. "I think his range is 66-92 (mph) or whatever, which is incredible. To have all of those pitches come out of the same slot with the same arm speed is a testament -- he's a Hall of Famer in my book.

"Early on, he pitched with mid-90s velocity and as he's gotten older, he's refined his pitches. It's an uncomfortable at-bat because you don't know what you're going to get in any count and any location. He pitched really well today."

Greinke's changeup is actually nearly the same speed as his fastball -- it averages slightly above 87 mph -- but his curveball serves as a true change-of-pace pitch at around 70 mph.

[RELATED: Matt Harvey looks dominant in his first start with A's Triple-A team]

"He does it a little bit differently than a lot of the premier starters," A's manager Bob Melvin explained. "He paints with his fastball. His changeup is almost the same speed as his fastball, yet it dives off the table and goes straight down. (He throws a) curveball for chase, curveball for strike, sliders to the right-handers, and really doesn't give you a whole lot to hit."

Sunday's win marked the 200th of Greinke's illustrious career against just 122 losses. Since joining the Astros at the MLB Trade Deadline, he is 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA. If he can continue to pitch at this level, Houston could find itself celebrating a second World Series title in three years.

Three A's prospects make MLB Pipeline's latest top 100 for 2020 season

Three A's prospects make MLB Pipeline's latest top 100 for 2020 season

The A's impressive trio of talented prospects continued to be recognized on Saturday. Pitchers Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk, as well as catcher Sean Murphy, were listed on MLB Pipeline's new list of their top 100 prospects for the 2020 season. 

Luzardo leads the way at No. 12 with Murphy ranked 33 and Puk at No. 60. This is much different than how Baseball America ranked the three

Luzardo, 22, is ranked three spots lower by MLB Pipeline than Baseball America, which placed the left-handed pitcher as the ninth-best prospect in baseball. Murphy and Puk are seen much differently by the two outlets as well. 

Baseball America has Puk as high as No. 21, coming in as Oakland's second-best prospect. His injury history as someone who underwent Tommy John surgery could be a reason MLB Pipeline ranks him lower. 

Murphy, on the other hand, is ranked eight spots higher on MLB Pipeline's top 100 than he is on Baseball America's. He's considered the best defensive prospect at catcher and could be a Gold Glove candidate as soon as this upcoming season. 

[RELATED: A's fans confident in team, Fiers heading into 2020 season]

All three prospects played a part in the A's reaching the AL Wild-Card Game last season. In 2020, however, they'll look to push Oakland to an AL West title and more. 

The future is here for the A's, and it starts with Luzardo, Murphy and Puk. 

A's fans confident in team, Mike Fiers heading into 2020 MLB season

A's fans confident in team, Mike Fiers heading into 2020 MLB season

OAKLAND -- It didn’t take long for the Q&A sessions at the A’s annual Fan Fest on Saturday to be swarmed with questions about “cheating” and “the Astros situation.” 

Yet a sense of excitement was in the air among the 32,000 green and gold faithful at Jack London Square. Typically, I would say “hope,” but A’s manager Bob Melvin said it was a season he looks forward to and there isn’t much of a message he wanted to send to his team.

They're ready.

And so are the fans. 

A young fan clutched her A’s teddy bear tightly to herself after A’s shortstop Marcus Semien took a sharpie to it. It was officially a collector’s item. 

She immediately gleamed with pride and appeared to barely catch her breath.

The long line was worth the wait.

When the topic of Mike Fiers came up, fans expressed support for the veteran pitcher, who was the main source in MLB's investigation into the Astros.

"We're behind Mike 150 percent," Fleetwood, long-time A's fan, told NBC Sports California. "We told him that, as they were marching in, 'We're behind you.'" 

"Mike is the hero, we love him for it," he added.

The combination of a strong roster on paper and support for Fiers was the theme of the day. 

"We just want to see good baseball, we want to see a competitive team -- want to see players signed, we want to be spoiled with these players just as the other teams are," Fleetwood said.

And Fleetwood's future outlook for the team? It was a deadpan look into the camera during an additional interview saying that the A's would indeed be the World Series champions next season.

Fans are looking forward to the young pitching arms and there is always a mention of “that Matt Chapman guy.” 

Watching fans list the strong things the team possesses heading into the season left them in better spirits than previous seasons. 

"The over is 89 and a half," Michael Gilson of Lafayette, Calif. said. "I would bet the over -- there's no reason for them to be less than where they were last year."

[RELATED: Sportsbook predicts 89.5 wins for A's in 2020]

Time and time again, Las Vegas has come up short in what this team can do.

"I think they've got the luxury of plenty this year," Gilson said.

Looking around, it appeared a weight had been lifted off the shoulders of Oakland fans. They have confidence in the team that looks strong on paper. The confidence that you'll be able to hear in drum and cheer form.