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Zack Greinke aces another start but exits early, D-backs win in blowout

Zack Greinke #21 of the Arizona Diamondbacks leaves the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the eighth inning with head athletic trainer Ryan DiPanfilo at Chase Field on May 15, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Zack Greinke’s bid for a complete game shutout ended prematurely and abruptly on Wednesday. It wasn’t because his pitch count got too high or because someone got him for a home run.

It was because Greinke, in the middle of an at bat to the opposing pitcher in the eighth inning of a blowout, suddenly needed to call it a day. It was later announced that he exited with abdominal tightness and was scheduled to have an MRI on Friday.

Wednesday was, on the one hand, cause for celebration. Greinke was excellent and continued a run in which he’s pitched like the ace the Diamondbacks need him to be and are paying him to be. But an outing that looked like it would end with a Gatorade shower instead ended with a trip to the trainer’s room.

“It’s not too bad,” Greinke said. “Just didn’t seem like a good idea to try to push it in that situation. Maybe if I did it over again, I’d just throw like a 75 mph fastball to the pitcher and see what happens. But definitely didn’t want to try to throw another pitch hard and take a chance of it pulling more than it did.”

Greinke went 7.2 innings on Wednesday, allowing no runs and only four hits on no walks and five strikeouts. He had thrown 95 pitches when he was removed. The D-backs beat the Pirates in a blowout, 11-1.

Lovullo said that Greinke would’ve had to record an out on his next pitch in order to get the opportunity to pitch the ninth in a bid for a complete game. That, he said, is because of Lovullo’s adherence to research that suggests that 100 pitches is a “full workload” and that pitching beyond that starts to become risky to a player’s long-term health.

“It’s possible,” Greinke said when asked about going the distance. “I mean, it was a good score for us so I don’t like pushing myself too much and have it hurt future games. Especially if everything’s going good. If the bullpen’s tired, it’s different. If the bullpen’s feeling good or if they need work then let them finish it in a normal situation. But I got hurt today.”

But more important than whether Greinke could get a complete game shutout is whether he’ll be able to keep pitching in the immediate future. In 2016, an oblique injury kept him out from the end of June to Aug. 9. Greinke said this abdominal issue felt similar to that, but just less severe.

“It seems to be in a little bit different spot and it’s lighter,” he said. “Last time, it was six weeks. Hopefully it’s not even six days, but we’ll see.”

The D-backs will surely be hoping that, too.

After his last start, a seven-inning, one-run performance against the Braves, Greinke stood at his locker and described to media his improvement as the season has gone on: “The first game was really bad and then the next couple were just OK. And I’ve been pitching a lot better since then,” he said.

Indeed he has. Wednesday continued an impressive run that has erased his dismal start to the year. On Opening Day, he allowed seven runs in 3.2 innings. The next two outings, he allowed seven runs in a combined 12.2 innings.

But in a stretch of seven starts going back to April 14, his fourth of the season, Greinke has allowed more than two runs only one time. He has allowed no runs in a start three times, and his ERA in that span is now 1.30.

Greinke’s ERA after three starts this year was 7.16. It is now 2.78 on the season.

“I felt good. I’ve been pitching good for a while now,” Greinke said. “Today, they put a lot of balls in play and [we] made a lot of good plays. I can’t remember who it was that hit it but I thought there was going to be a hit and then [Jarrod] Dyson ran it down easy out in center. And it was a smooth game.”

OFFENSIVE OUTBURST

On the other side, Archer was making his first appearance since April 26. In his return from the IL, the 30-year-old lasted just 3.2 innings, giving up seven runs (six earned) on four hits, four walks and five strikeouts. He walked the bases loaded and gave up three runs in the first inning, struck out the side in the second inning, had a 1-2-3 third inning and then allowed four more runs in the fourth before his removal.

It was an up-and-down day for Archer that ended with an ugly stat line. He threw 80 pitches, 33 of which were in the first inning alone.

But as much as Archer scuffled in his first game back, the D-backs were disciplined at the plate, drawing four walks, and clubbed home runs in back-to-back innings in off of different pitchers. That’s without mentioning another round-tripper later, Blake Swihart’s second career inside-the-park home run.

It was a major turnaround from Tuesday night in which Arizona mustered only four hits.

“I thought we swung the bats extremely well,” Lovullo said. “Just really nice approaches all day long. I thought we let Archer pitch himself into some situations. We were patient, we had a good approach. We just had a really nice day offensively and that was set up and paced by Zack.”

This time, the D-backs plated 11. The D-backs have scored 11 or more runs in a game four times this season, and three of those times have been against the Pirates.

EXTRA BASES

–David Peralta left the game early with what was described as right trap tightness.

“We feel like with some therapy in the training room here, he’ll be fine,” Lovullo said.

–Taijuan Walker, who is recovering from a Tommy John surgery he had last year, threw 17 pitches on Wednesday, 10 in the first inning, at Salt River Fields. Seven pitches into the second inning, he was removed with right shoulder soreness. His removal was described as precautionary.

–Carson Kelly pinch-hit for the pitcher and stayed in the game as a double switch, playing third base. It was the first time in his major league career he has played anywhere other than catcher.

“[I did that] to get a different look at something I feel like could potentially pop up during the season,” Lovullo said, “when you get stretched out and kind of put in a situation where you’ve flexed all your players into a game and you tie the game late or something happens injury-wise.”

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