Clayton Kershaw bests former teammate Zack Greinke in 1st ever matchup

ByDoug Padilla ESPN logo
Saturday, April 15, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw said he was not looking forward to facing off with his former teammate Friday. That was then.

Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers got the best of the Zack Greinke and the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, in a game that was nowhere near as close as the pregame hype suggested.

Formerly a pair of aces on a Dodgers' staff that won three consecutive National League West titles, the two have been on division rivals the past two seasons, but Friday was the first time they ever faced off. The Dodgers rolled 7-1 as Kershaw came two outs away from his 16th career shutout.

"I said it before, but it's not a lot of fun to face guys you know and consider a friend," Kershaw said after the game. "We did a really good job against [Grienke] tonight. We really battled, made him throw a lot of pitches, didn't give him many easy outs tonight. We kind of broke it open there with a few big hits with runners in scoring position so hats off to our guys tonight. They really battled well against him."

A subplot in the duel, that brought with it a combined four Cy Young Awards to the table, was the fact that it was the highest priced matchup in major league history, with each pitcher making more than $30 million this season

The Dodgers' left-hander showed why he is able to command such a lucrative price. He didn't allow his first baserunner until the fourth inning and carried a one-hitter into the eighth inning. Kershaw gave up one run on four hits over 8 innings. Pedro Baez was called on to get the final two outs.

Arizona's Chris Owings not only got the first hit off Kershaw in the fourth inning, he ended the shutout bid in the ninth with a one-out RBI double.

"After [Kershaw] didn't have the great outing in Colorado (when he gave up three home runs), you knew somebody was going to have to pay," Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts said. "There was even more incentive to competing against Zack on the other side. He was focused and is always focused. But to see a little more heightened focus and intensity, it was good to see. And it was something our club needed, that lift from a starting pitcher and our bullpen needed it. There were a lot of good things tonight."

Greinke, meanwhile, struggled again at Dodger Stadium, while wearing the Sedona red of the Diamondbacks. He gave up five runs on 10 hits over five innings. In two starts with the Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium, he has given up 13 earned runs on 19 hits over 9 innings.

"It wasn't like the best I've ever pitched, but their at-bats are super quality and they hit the ball hard a lot,'' Greinke said. "Just a good game by them.''

The matchup was scoreless into the third inning when the Dodgers started to break free. Adrian Gonzalez and Logan Forsythe both had RBI singles off Greinke, with Gonzalez breaking an 0-for-19 spell with runners in scoring position for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers got a two-run double from Justin Turner and a sacrifice fly for a run from Yasiel Puig in the fifth before Greinke was forced to call it a day after throwing 107 pitches.

Kershaw and Greinke became fast friends while playing for the Dodgers, their common bond being their ability to pitch well at the ballpark in Los Angeles. Kershaw entered with the second lowest ERA ever at Dodger Stadium at 1.98, while Greinke was fourth at 2.19. First on the list at 1.37 was Sandy Koufax, who was on hand for the game in the owners' box near the Dodgers' third-base dugout.

"We got pretty close, and our kids are around the same age and were close,'' Kershaw said. "It was a little weird.''

The matchup was the first between former Cy Young Award winners, who were once teammates, since the Mets' Tom Glavine and the Braves' John Smoltz faced off Sept. 2, 2007.

Kershaw batted against Greinke first, grounding into a double play to end a bases-loaded threat in the second inning. Kershaw went 0-for-3 against his friend, and was the last batter Greinke faced when he grounded out on a comebacker in the fifth inning. Greinke went 0-for-1 against Kershaw.

During their three seasons as teammates, Kershaw led the National League in WAR, WHIP, ERA and opponents' OPS, and was second in opponents' batting average. Greinke was second in WAR, fourth in WHIP, third in ERA, fourth in opponents' OPS and fourth in opponents' batting average in that time.

The pair combined for a 2.10 ERA in three seasons together. All other Dodgers starters over that time posted a combined 4.03 ERA.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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