What's up with Zack Greinke?

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Zack Greinke frustrated.jpgIt’s the obvious storyline after Friday’s 10-3 loss to the Twins. Greinke allowed four runs — two earned — over five innings while walking five and striking out five. The five walks were the most Greinke had allowed in a start since June 13, 2008.

Through his first three starts this season, Greinke has allowed 10 runs — seven earned — over 17 2/3 innings (3.57 ERA). He didn’t give up his seventh earned run last season until May 26 — in his 10th start of the year. Greinke gave up back-to-back home runs in his last start against the Red Sox. He didn’t give up his first home run last season until June 5 — his 12th start of the season.

Greinke tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that his early ineffectiveness could be due to a failure to execute his game plan:

“I think my mind is just not right on how to pitch,” he said, “because
every game I’ve been able to throw the ball close to where I wanted (to
throw it). I’m just not getting the job done.

“It could be, a
little bit, just not executing the pitches. But I think my game plan has
been wrong. Some of the pitches are not really sharp, but they’re good
enough to where I should, at the very least, be able to pitch deeper
into games.”

I’m confident that Greinke will be just fine moving forward, but it’s no stretch to say that he could be battling two exterior factors right now. One, the pressure to be perfect knowing that his joke of a bullpen could cough up a lead and at any moment. And two, trying to pitch with the knowledge that his start to the ’09 season is an impossibly difficult act to follow.

Ramón Laureano made an absolutely ridiculous play yesterday

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I talked about it in the recaps, but dear lord does Oakland A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano’s play in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays deserve it’s own post.

Jays first baseman Justin Smoak led off the second with a single Then Teoscar Hernández then came up and hit a long drive to center. In what, in and of itself, would’ve lead the highlight reels yesterday, Laureano ranged back to the wall and reached over to rob Hernández of a homer.

Laureano is known best for his arm, though, and that’s when he unleashed that hose, attempting to double off Smoak at first base all the way from the warning track. The throw was not on target — indeed, it sailed way past first base — but that was itself impressive as all get-out. As A’s pitcher Brett Anderson said after the game, he’s pretty sure the throw went farther than Hernández hit the ball in the first place. The arm strength on display there was simply phenomenal. But it was also lucky.

Lucky because the throw went so far into foul territory that it gave Smoak the courage to break for second base. Laureano was not the only one playing great defense on the play, though: A’s catcher Nick Hundley backed up the play, got Laureano’s errant throw and fired it down to second, nailing Smoak. And heck, Hundley’s throw was nothing to sneeze at either:

That did not go as an outfield assist for Lauerano, obviously, as his bad throw — which would’ve been an error had Smoak managed to advance, we must admit — broke that up. So, in the books it goes as an F7 and then a separate 2-4 putout. Still, it just shows Laueano’s incredible defensive abilities, both with the leather and with that cannon he has for an arm.

An arm that, this play not withstanding, gets him plenty of assists. Indeed, he has has five assists this season already and has 14 assists in just 70 games, which is a lot. To put it in perspective, it usually takes somewhere between 12-18 to lead the league in a full season with 20 being an outlier of sorts, only seen once every five years or so.

So, if you’re gonna hit it to center against the A’s, make sure you hit it all the way out. And if Laureano gets to it, for god’s sake, don’t run on him.