Zack Greinke saves the Astros

Zack Greinke saves the Astros


The Braves’ Freddie Freeman reacts after a single by the Astros’ Zack Greinke during the fourth inning in Game Five of the World Series at Truist Park on October 31, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Image: Getty Images

Well, not really, Of course not. We all know that’s a ridiculous notion. But what my book presupposes is…maybe he did?

Greinke pinch-hit in the top of the 4th in the pitcher’s spot, as the Astros once again couldn’t get much from their starter, Framber Valdez. Greinke had a hit in Game 4, and though he hasn’t been in the NL in a couple of years, he was one of the better hitting pitchers back when he did live in that league. With the Astros already into the pen in Game 5, manager Dusty Baker needed to save a short bench for later innings and seemingly bigger spots. Or maybe Dusty knew something. Maybe Jesse Chavez’s direct approach to pitching, fastball only basically, would lead to Greinke being able to time him up. Is it really hidden genius from Baker? We may never know.

Greinke singled to right, at the time the hardest ball the Astros hit all night. The 4th didn’t go anywhere for the Astros, but getting Michael Bradley up to bat in the 4th, thanks to Greinke’s single, meant that A.J. Minter had to come in with two outs instead of starting the next inning fresh.

Minter remained on the hill for the 5th for the Braves, where Carlos Correa started with a single. Minter struck out Yordan Alvarez, but Yuli Gurriel got on, which eventually led to Martin Maldonado’s bases-loaded walk and Marwin Gonzalez’s single, and the game was turned.

Now, the sliding doors exercise is that if Greinke does what pitchers at the plate usually do, Altuve makes an out like he did anyway, and Minter comes in the 5th and two of the first three batters are lefties. So at worst, Minter has two outs with one on in the 5th. Maybe Kyle Tucker’s groundout that moved the runners up and provided an open base for Alex Bregman to be intentionally walked onto just ends the inning. On the wings of maybe…

So as you can clearly see, Zack Greinke, with a bat in his hand, might have just turned the World Series on its head. This could be the baseball version of the Falcons forgetting how to run the ball with a 28-3 lead. Could be. You don’t know.

And this is where if I wanted to, even though I don’t, I could point out what we’ll lose when the DH is taken away whenever the next MLB season begins (we still don’t really know). And that it could have been the last hit by a pitcher in an MLB game ever, non-Ohtani division (though assuredly some pitchers will get joke ABs in blowouts even if the DH is universally installed). Not just a piece of history, but a piece of ourselves will go with it. That little inkling inside of all of us that wants any sign or moment meaning big changes are afoot. We all have it. Baker had it. Greinke had it. Cooperstown should be taking Greinke’s bat (if it was even his). We need to save it, not just for baseball history, but to remind us of hope in general.

We won’t have these moments to go over anymore, once this series is over. That’s it. This little quirk of baseball that landed Greinke at this spot, at this time, when all seemed lost for the Astros, seemingly nothing more than a time-killer. You just need one break to go your way. A shift in the breeze to pull yourself out of the muck. We won’t be able to dissect it over beers with our friends (our partners certainly won’t want to hear it again).

Clearly, my case is water-tight. Stunning in its layers and argument, really. Zack Greinke may not get his number retired in Houston, but if the Astros win this series, he should get a plaque somewhere in Minute Maid Park. Mighty oaks from little acorns, as my father used to say.

But really, maybe Minter just ran out of gas and the Astros are too powerful of a lineup to keep down for that many games, and now they’re going to score 19 runs in the next two games to take the series. That’s what really happened.

Or did it?



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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.