All good streaks eventually come to an end and it was a heck of a run for Los Angeles Dodgers starter Zack Greinke, whose scoreless run concluded at 45 2/3 innings after allowing a run in the third inning in Sunday’s loss to the New York Mets.
Greinke threw 636 pitches during the streak and allowed only three extra-base hits. The only player to have multiple hits against him during it was Mets infielder Wilmer Flores.
So with Greinke no longer in position to challenge Orel Hershiser’s mark of 59 scoreless innings (set in 1988) or the three other pitchers who threw at least 50 straight (Don Drysdale 58, Walter Johnson 55 2/3 and Jack Coombs 53), we took a look at who else is capable of approaching those numbers.
Greinke’s teammate, Clayton Kershaw, is the most logical choice, particularly given the run he’s currently on.
Kershaw is almost halfway to Hershiser, with a 29-inning scoreless streak that included a shutout of the Mets earlier in the series.
Perhaps most impressive about this run for Kershaw: In his last three starts, he’s struck out 38 and walked none.
Kershaw has been down this road before. Last season, he threw 41 consecutive scoreless innings.
Kershaw may also be able to cover ground in this streak quickly. He’s thrown at least eight innings in each of his last three starts.
During this elite run of dominance that he’s been on, Kershaw has been able to finish strong. He’s allowed 66 runs in 42 starts in August, September and October, the last three regular seasons (1.6 per game).
Greinke’s mound opponent on Sunday, Jacob deGrom, was the better pitcher, throwing 7 2/3 scoreless innings and allowing only two hits.
It was deGrom’s seventh scoreless start this season, one shy of Greinke’s major-league leading eight.
Since allowing six runs, five runs, and four runs, within a four-start sequence in late April and early May, deGrom has been as good as anyone in the sport. He is 7-2 with a 1,37 ERA in his last dozen starts, with 91 strikeouts, 11 walks and only three home runs allowed.
deGrom’s current scoreless streak is 8 2/3 innings. Given his current average of 6 2/3 innings per start, he’d need at least seven more scoreless starts to challenge Hershiser’s record and likely part of an eighth start to break it.
Any sort of challenge would far surpass his career best scoreless streak, which the Elias Sports Bureau notes is 18 1/3 innings earlier this season.
The most popular name in baseball today is Johnny Cueto, who was traded from the Reds to the Royals.
He’s headed to a league that he’s handled formidably in the past. He’s 13-4 with a 2.55 ERA in 25 starts against AL teams not named the Royals.
Cueto has multiple highly-effective pitches (including a changeup and a cutter) and that’s made his fastball challenging for opponents to hit this season. Opposing batters are hitting .162 against it, the lowest batting average against that pitch among any pitcher currently qualified for the ERA title (ahead of Scott Kazmir and deGrom).
Cueto's career long, via Elias: 21 innings last season.
Maybe a reliever?
Given this era of specialization and the volume of work that relief pitchers get, perhaps a reliever could challenge the streak.
Potential candidates would include:
Royals setup man Wade Davis: Davis has arguably been baseball’s best pitcher in short bursts the last two seasons. He has an 0.78 ERA over 114 2/3 innings over the last two seasons. And based on his strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed, those numbers are deserved. His FIP in that span is 1.35. Problem is that he has work to do- his current streak is 3 2/3 innings.
Dodgers lefty J.P. Howell: It would likely take Howell a long time to get there, but given how he’s pitching, it should be mentioned. His scoreless streak is now 18 innings after throwing 1 1/3 scoreless against the Mets on Sunday. However, it’s taken him 22 games to throw 18 innings of zeroes.
Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler: Not only does Ziegler have among the lowest ERAs in baseball, but he’s been there and done that with long streaks. He had a 39-inning scoreless run to start his career in 2008.
Ziegler just had a 16 2/3 inning scoreless streak end on Friday, so he’s practically starting from scratch.