Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke finished his spectacular first half Thursday night with eight shutout innings against the Phillies, heading into the All-Star break with an MLB-best 1.39 ERA and 35.2 consecutive scoreless innings.
Last season Greinke’s rotation-mate Clayton Kershaw threw 41 straight scoreless innings, so he can try to match or surpass that feat in his first start of the second half. He hasn’t allowed a run since June 13.
Overall this season Greinke is 8-2 with a 106/20 K/BB ratio in 123 innings, holding opponents to a .191 batting average in 18 starts. And his 1.39 ERA is the lowest mark any starting pitcher has posted in the first half since 1968–also known as “The Year Of The Pitcher”–when Bob Gibson, Luis Tiant, and Don Drysdale all went into the All-Star break with sub-1.40 ERAs.
Gibson finished 1968 with a 1.12 ERA, which stands as the modern record. Orel Hershiser holds the record for consecutive scoreless innings with 59.
The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.
Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.
There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.
That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.
The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.
One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.
Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.