LOS ANGELES (AP) – Not too bad, as far as first impressions go.
Zack Greinke pitched two-hit ball into the seventh inning of his splendid Dodgers debut, leading Los Angeles to a 3-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
Andre Ethier homered and Los Angeles got RBI doubles from Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez. Greinke, who signed a $147 million, six-year contract to join the Dodgers during the offseason, struck out six and did not walk a batter in 6 1-3 innings.
“First impressions are important,” Greinke said. “But I’m just trying to get one out at a time. No matter who it is, they’re the most important batter at the moment. That’s kind of what I do, and hopefully everything takes care of itself.”
Before the game, even Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he hadn’t seen Greinke much.
The right-hander was on a limited pitch count after throwing only 13 innings during spring training, but he made his 92 pitches count Friday and showed why he was in such high demand last winter.
“He was able to spot the fastball, threw the cutter, threw the two-seamer, four-seamer, the velocity was firm, and his slider was a good pitch,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He threw two or three 3-2 breaking balls to keep you off the fastball. A handful of breaking balls that are 72-74 mph.
“It was a tremendous show of control, and controlling bat speed. All those three-ball counts, (but) we couldn’t push him over the edge.”
Greinke yielded just a two-out single to Garrett Jones in the second inning and a one-out single to Andrew McCutchen in the seventh.
The 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner said his first start for a new team didn’t bring any added pressure, and he just did what he normally does.
“I think it’s rare to have that kind of touch with his breaking stuff. He was pretty amazing, really,” Mattingly said. “He was like Felix (Hernandez). I’ve seen both those guys pitch when they were 19 and both of them had great command early, and great touch with their off-speed stuff early, and you don’t see that.”
Besides Greinke getting his first victory in his first Dodgers start, there were other firsts for Los Angeles. Ethier hit his first home run of the year, Kemp got his first hit and Gonzalez had his first RBI.
For Kemp, his RBI double in the sixth off Pirates starter Jonathan Sanchez (1-0) not only increased the lead to 2-0, it also ended an 0-for-12 start to the season.
“I’m excited about that one,” Kemp said. “There’s more to come though, there’s more to come.”
Immediately after Kemp’s double, Gonzalez doubled into the right-field corner to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead and knock Sanchez out of the game.
Greinke (1-0) began his Dodgers career by retiring the first five batters he faced. With two outs in the second, he gave up a hard one-hopper by Jones that second baseman Mark Ellis couldn’t handle. The play was ruled a hit.
Greinke responded by setting down the next 14 hitters until McCutchen lined a single to center in the seventh. Mattingly swiftly made his way to the mound to take the ball from Greinke, who missed a couple of spring starts because of inflammation in his elbow and the flu.
“That’s as far as he’s been,” Mattingly said. “We wanted him to be below 100 (pitches). That was a fairly long inning there when we scored and you could tell he wasn’t quite as sharp.”
Greinke got some help from his defense, particularly shortstop Justin Sellers in the fifth. Sellers robbed Jones of a hit with a diving, backhand stab of a sharp grounder, bouncing up and throwing to first.
Brandon League pitched the ninth for his first save of the season, completing the two-hitter.
Sanchez was no stranger to the Dodgers, pitching against them for the 18th time in his career. All 17 previous appearances came with the Giants.
Like Greinke, Sanchez retired his first five hitters. But the sixth batter in the lineup, Ethier, drove a 2-2 pitch into the right-field bleachers.
Los Angeles broke through again in the sixth. After Mark Ellis’ leadoff walk, Kemp and Gonzalez had back-to-back doubles to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead, ending the night for Sanchez. He went five-plus innings, allowing three runs and six hits.
After Greinke came out in the seventh, Paco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen and League combined to hold the Pirates hitless for the final 2 2/3 innings.