Cole Hamels made his season debut for the Phillies on Wednesday night and while he pitched very well -- two runs in six innings -- the story was Dodgers starter Zack Greinke, who allowed two runs while striking out 11. That's 17 straight starts Greinke has allowed two earned runs or fewer, the most since 1900.
In fact, I'm not sure why the "earned runs" definition is applied there -- Greinke hasn't allowed more than two runs, earned or not, in any of those games. More impressively, he started three postseason games last year and allowed two runs in each of those, so we're really talking about 20 consecutive starts allowing two runs or fewer.
From ESPN Stats & Information, his MLB ranks since July 30:
Wins: 11 (tied for first)
ERA: 1.82 (fourth)
WHIP: 0.95 (third)
K/BB: 5.7 (fifth)
Chase pct.: 33.9 (third)
Including his three playoff starts, batters are hitting .204 against Greinke during this stretch, including .141 against his slider. Most impressive, however, may be his ability to rack up strikeouts with his fastball, a testament to the great movement he gets on it. He has 57 strikeouts and 10 walks in plate appearances ending in fastballs since July 30. Compare that to some other pitchers in that time (regular season only): Clayton Kershaw (21 strikeouts, 15 walks), Yu Darvish (31 and 24), Jose Fernandez (26 and 12), Stephen Strasburg (27 and 20), James Shields (29 and 28), Adam Wainwright (27 and 18), Justin Verlander (43 and 26).
Obviously, that list was chosen to make Greinke look good -- David Price is 61 and 9, for example -- but you get the point: Greinke doesn't use his fastball just to set up his other pitches. And considering he has that great slider, a plus curveball and a good changeup with command of all four pitches and you can see why Kershaw may be fighting for best-pitcher-on-his-own-team honors when he returns from the DL.
Other thoughts and links ...
Mark Saxon on the Dodgers' defense, which has been a problem so far.
Grantland's Jonah Keri on why 2014 is looking a lot like 1968. That was the year Bob Gibson had his 1.12 ERA. His longest stretch of games allowing two runs or fewer came June 6 to July 30: 11 starts, 11 complete games, eight shutouts, three runs total (he didn't allow more than one run in those starts). The Cubs finally broke through with five runs against him on Aug. 4. Of course, Gibson pitched 11 innings that day.
Jose Abreu continues to impress, hitting his seventh home run. So much for him needing some transition time to the majors. Marcus Semien's grand slam off Ian Krol in the seventh lifted the White Sox to the 6-4 victory over the Tigers. Here's the impressive thing about Abreu's power: Five of the seven home runs have come to center field (give or take). He's also hit all pitches; while three came on pitches down the middle, three came on pitches low in the strike zone and one came on a high and outside fastball. He has 21 strikeouts and eight walks and if he can reign in some of his chasing -- he's swung at 34 percent of pitches out of the zone -- he's going to be even more of a monster.
The Giants salvaged the final game of their series in Colorado as Hector Sanchez hit a grand slam in the 11th. Mike Morse joined Sanchez with two home runs and were both huge blasts, going 458 and 450 feet. Since 2006, when ESPN began tracking home run distance, Morse is just the third player with two 450-foot shots in one game, joining Edwin Encarnacion (May 21, 2010) and Mike Napoli (May 1, 2013). Morse has five home runs, as many as Giants left fielders hit all last season.
Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon continues to have the April of his life: He went 2-for-5, scored four runs and drove in three and is hitting .410/.453/.692. Idea on how to solve all the hitting woes these days: More games at Coors Field!
The Rangers finished off an impressive sweep of the A's in Oakland as Martin Perez spun a three-hit shutout -- his second shutout in a row, extending his scoreless innings streak to 26. I like this quote from Perez: "I don't want to think too much about my ERA and the games that I've thrown before. I'm going to focus on my game today. We had a great game." The Rangers, despite having used the DL more than any club, despite a makeshift lineup on Wednesday that included Michael Choice hitting leadoff, Donnie Murphy playing second and Josh Wilson playing third, despite Prince Fielder hitting .200 and Adrian Beltre sitting on the DL, have the best record in the American League. Amazingly, they're 14-8 even though they've been outscored by one run. Baseball.