Houston Astros, MLB Postseason

Zack Greinke was having the game of his life…until he wasn’t

Zack Greinke dominated the Nationals for six innings in Game 7, but it was in the seventh that his night, and potentially the Astros’ season, came undone.

Zack Greinke and the Houston Astros were cruising through the first six innings of Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday. What they weren’t counting on was how these Washington Nationals are never out of it.

Greinke came back out to pitch in the top of the seventh inning at Minute Maid Park after surrendering only one hit, a single to Juan Soto in the second, through the first six. The Astros held a 2-0 lead and were nine outs away from their second World Series title in the last three years.

He got a quick first out, inducing a ground ball to short off the bat of Adam Eaton. Then Greinke made his biggest mistake of the night. A 1-0 changeup to Anthony Rendon hung up in the middle of the zone, and the Nationals MVP-caliber third baseman didn’t miss, sending the ball 374 feet into the Crawford Boxes in left.

Now working with just a one-run lead, Greinke walked Soto on a 3-1 count, only after a changeup on 2-1 caught the bottom of the strike zone but was called a ball by home plate umpire Jim Wolf. That ended the night for Greinke after 6.1 innings and responsible for the runner on first.

He gave way to relief pitcher Will Harris, but Houston’s lead survived all of two pitches. On an 0-1 count, Howie Kendrick took a 90 mph cutter from Harris to the opposite field and off the foul pole in right for a two-run homer. With two swings of the bat, one by Rendon and the other by Kendrick, Greinke went from the game of his life to potentially seeing his first World Series ring slip off his finger.

Roberto Osuna came on to get the final two outs of the inning, but not before Washington left with a 3-2 lead. Now they’re the ones nine outs away from the first World Series title in franchise history.

Houston got Greinke just for games like this. General Manager Jeff Luhnow had a decision to make at the July trade deadline: Should he stick with what he had, namely Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, or go out and acquire another starter to give Houston a formidable rotation?

Greinke took the mound at 1:00 p.m. that afternoon, three hours before the deadline, for the Arizona Diamondbacks in Yankee Stadium. He pitched five innings while giving up two runs in what turned out to be his last few hours in a Diamondbacks uniform. With just five minutes to spare before the four o’clock deadline, Luhnow made the deal with Arizona to acquire Greinke.

The now 36-year-old didn’t disappoint with the Astros, going 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA in 10 starts after the trade. But in the postseason, he’s been struggling to get past the fifth inning, something he hadn’t done in three of four starts coming into Game 7. Opponents were hitting .289 against him in the postseason after just .228 during the regular season.

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He was looking well on his way to erasing those memories with his performance in Game 7. Now the game is out of his hands, and it’s the job of the Astros to come back and win the title at home.

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