PHOENIX — Pace of play proponents were probably smiling ear-to-ear for the earlier innings of Friday night’s D-backs versus Braves game at Chase Field.
The 2-1 D-backs loss was wrapped up in three hours exactly, thanks to a riveting pitchers’ duel between Arizona’s Zack Greinke and Atlanta’s Julio Teheran in the second game of a four-game series. But despite Greinke’s efforts and the game being tied up when he exited, the Braves evened the series.
Arizona, which is now 6-4 in its last 10 games, dropped a game in which Greinke went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits and no walks with seven strikeouts on 98 pitches, 67 for strikes. It was an ace doing ace things.
“It’s unfortunate when you get a night like we did out of Zack Greinke that you can’t really capitalize on anything offensively and win the game,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “It was seven incredible innings. He had to labor a little bit in his final inning. We were thinking about sending him back out there had he not had that situation.”
On the other side, Teheran likewise limited his opponent to just one run in his start, going six innings and allowing three hits with two walks and four strikeouts. But the D-backs’ Yoan Lopez, who entered with a 0.63 ERA in 18 appearances this year, gave up the deciding run.
Ronald Acuña Jr.’s line drive home run off the batters’ eye in center field in the eighth inning made it 2-1 Braves, where the score would remain. Greinke, therefore, got the no decision in his start, his fourth start this year in which he’s allowed one or fewer runs.
“I felt good out there,” Greinke said. “Good game for the most part. I made a lot of good pitches. Good plays defensively, [John Ryan Murphy] caught good. Just had trouble hitting. It looked good, but tough to square [Teheran] up.”
Greinke’s ERA improved to 3.16 on the year. In his last five starts, that figure is 1.33.
“I’ve been pitching a lot better,” Greinke said. “The first game [of the season] was really bad and then the next couple were just OK. And I’ve been pitching a lot better since then.”
Until there were two outs in the bottom of the third inning, both pitchers had faced the minimum number of hitters. The lone run Greinke gave up came when Dansby Swanson hit a one-out triple and Freddie Freeman singled him home. Swanson, the former first overall pick by the D-backs, went 3-for-4 with a run scored.
“He looks good,” Greinke said of Swanson, who is on pace to set several career highs this season. “I’ve actually always thought he looks pretty good up there. Just since you’re a first overall pick, people expect too much out of guys sometimes. And he’s always looked pretty good to me.”
Teheran, meanwhile, let up one run to the D-backs when Ketel Marte doubled in the fifth inning and David Peralta tripled him home.
When asked what Teheran was doing well, Greinke, himself a good hitter as far as pitchers go, quipped, “I don’t know. I just know I couldn’t hit it.”
But the Acuña dinger made all the difference. Lopez said that home run was partly a matter of falling behind to Acuña, who hit the home run on a 2-0 pitch.
“We were discussing that here in the dugout,” Lovullo said. “You back yourself into a corner against that type of hitter and make mistake out over the plate with a fastball, he’s going to put a barrel on it.”
–The D-backs optioned infielder Ildemaro Vargas back to Triple-A Reno after the game. A corresponding move will announced Saturday, but it is not expected to be a pitcher.
–Pitcher Taijuan Walker, recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw a 23-pitch bullpen on Friday. Those who saw it and Walker himself all reported that it went well, Lovullo said. The next step for Walker will likely be another bullpen.
–Catcher Alex Avila, recovering from a quad injury, was expected to go through “all pre-game prep” and block pitches to see how he feels. Lovullo said before Friday’s game that Avila is “getting pretty close.”
–Third baseman Jake Lamb, also recovering from a quad injury, continued baseball activity including light running and was expected to field ground balls on Friday. He’s “in a good spot,” but a return to the active roster on this current homestand was not expected.