Eight postseason starts into Zack Greinke’s Astros career, he finally feels like his manager trusts him to finish off his outings strong.
The former AL Cy Young winner helped Houston stave off elimination on Wednesday. Facing the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 4 of the ALCS, Greinke came out for the sixth inning with the Astros up 4-2. He allowed back-to-back one-out singles, prompting manager Dusty Baker to make a trip to the mound.
A year ago, Baker’s predecessor might have pulled him in that spot. But Baker is a manager known for going with his gut in big moment, sometimes to a fault. His gut told him to keep Greinke in the game and the right-hander delivered. He allowed another baserunner but struck out both Randy Arozarena and Mike Brosseau to hand the game over to Houston’s late-inning relievers.
“It’s nice having someone have confidence in me,” Greinke said after the Astros held on for a 4-3 win, as quoted by the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome. “Since I‘ve been here, they haven’t seemed to have confidence in my ability. It was nice having that happen at an important time like that.”
Greinke admitted that “one example” of that previous lack of confidence was Game 7 of last fall’s World Series against the Nationals. Then-Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who was later fired for his complacency in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, yanked Greinke after he gave up a solo home run to Anthony Rendon and walked Juan Soto with one out in the seventh.
Greinke had been cruising for most of the game, with the Nationals managing to put just one runner on base over the previous six frames. But knocking Greinke out of the game was exactly what Washington needed, as Howie Kendrick came up as the very next batter and delivered the go-ahead home run that put the Nationals ahead for good.
“There's probably a dozen examples if you look back at it,” Greinke said Wednesday.
The Nationals do know what it’s like for Baker’s gut decisions to go wrong. Baker was their manager for two seasons, including the catastrophic 2017 NLDS Game 5 that saw Max Scherzer give up four runs (two earned) out of the bullpen. Baker had the chance to pull Scherzer to limit the damage, but he stuck with his ace in a move that cost Washington its season.
Nevertheless, Baker’s gut proved to be on to something Wednesday as the Astros pushed the ALCS to a Game 5. They still have a lot of work to do if they’re going to make it back to the postseason. Yet even if they’re eliminated Thursday, Baker has shown Greinke that he believes he can still get it done.