LOS ANGELES -- Facing elimination from the postseason, the Dodgers can't afford any kind of regression from Zack Greinke, who has admitted to being vulnerable in situations like this.
Prior to Tuesday's game, a 4-2 loss, Greinke recalled that when he has faced the same opponent in back-to-back assignments, the results differed sharply.
"A lot of times, you'll have one good start and one bad start," Greinke said. "Or if you do bad, you'll probably do good the next time. If you do good, they're going to make an adjustment, and you've got to be faster than them at it."
Trailing St. Louis in the National League Championship Series, 3-1, following Tuesday's setback, Los Angeles will rely on Greinke to be the master adapter on Wednesday when he starts Game 5 at 1 p.m. PT on TBS, opposing Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly.
Greinke hopes to duplicate the effectiveness he displayed in last Friday's series opener at St. Louis, a 3-2 Cardinals win, and logic dictates that if he excelled once against the Cardinals, he can do so again. He worked eight scintillating innings in Game 1, yielding two runs on four hits while walking one and striking out 10. Carlos Beltran's two-out double in the third inning accounted for the only scoring off him.
Tale of the Tape: Game 5
|2013 regular season|
|Overall: 28 GS, 15-4, 2.63 ERA, 46 BB, 148 K||Overall: 15 GS (37 G), 10-5, 2.69 ERA, 44 BB, 79 K|
|Key stat: 10 strikeouts over eight innings in Game 1||Key stat: Six innings of two-run ball in Game 1|
|At Dodger Stadium|
|2013: 14 GS, 8-2, 2.11 ERA
Career: 15 GS, 9-2, 2.08 ERA
|2013: 1 G, 0-0, 6.00 ERA
Career: 1 GS (2 G), 0-0, 5.63 ERA
|Against this opponent|
|2013: 1 GS, 1-0, 2.84 ERA
Career: 10 GS (12 G), 8-3, 3.10 ERA
|2013: 1 GS (2 G), 1-0, 3.24 ERA
Career: 3 GS (4 G), 1-1, 3.72 ERA
|Loves to face: Carlos Beltran, 2-for-10, 3 K
Hates to face: Matt Holliday, 9-for-29, 2 HR
|Loves to face: A.J. Ellis, 1-for-11, 5 K
Hates to face: Adrian Gonzalez, 5-for-9, 1 HR
|Why he'll win: Tough to beat at Dodger Stadium||Why he'll win: Had better numbers this year on the road (5-1, 2.07 ERA) than at home (5-4, 3.29 ERA)|
|Pitcher beware: Cardinals led NL in runs scored in regular season||Pitcher beware: Most important start of his career|
|Bottom line: Build on success from Game 1 start||Bottom line: Don't let the crowd get into the game|
"We feel strongly about the guys taking the mound the next two days," said left fielder Carl Crawford, referring to left-hander Clayton Kershaw as well as Greinke.
But Greinke has struggled to sustain success in his encores. He's 4-4 with a 5.81 ERA in 10 regular-season starts when he has confronted the same team for the second straight time. On six of those occasions, a loss followed a win or vice versa -- exactly how he remembers it.
Greinke has also displayed this tendency in the postseason. Pitching for Milwaukee in the 2011 NLCS against St. Louis, he won the series opener -- despite surrendering six runs in six innings -- before losing Game 5.
The Dodgers are counting on him to diverge from this pattern and excel again.
"He was sharp with all his pitches," manager Don Mattingly said, describing Greinke's Game 1 gem. "He was locating the fastball and attacking the strike zone. ... Zack is one of those guys who can get the ball to all different locations on the plate, with different speeds, so he's a tough matchup for people."
Indeed, Greinke needs little help summoning his full ability. Ricky Nolasco, who took the loss in Game 4 after allowing three runs on three hits in four innings, said during the regular season that he gained insight into upcoming opponents by watching Greinke pitch against them. But, Greinke said, without slighting Nolasco, that he didn't plan to search for cues or clues by watching his teammate on Tuesday night.
"Normally, that would probably be the case, but I've faced St. Louis a dozen times, and just faced them a couple of days ago," Greinke said. "So [developing strategy] will be more [based on] what they've done against me instead of how they're swinging against Ricky in this instance."
Signed by the Dodgers to a six-year, $159 million contract last December, Greinke has seen his performances progress along with the season. The 29-year-old was dominant in his final 12 starts, limiting opponents to a .204 batting average and posting a 0.93 WHIP. His 1.58 ERA during this stretch was the Majors' second lowest, bested only by that of Kershaw (1.55). Greinke's surge included a seven-decision winning streak from Aug. 5 to Sept. 17, which helped him win the NL's Pitcher of the Month Award for August.