The vilification of Zack Greinke has already begun

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Zack Greinke started on Monday night in NLDS Game 3 against the Dodgers. He didn’t have his best stuff, but managed to hold the Dodgers — which won a major league-best 104 games and had one of the National League’s best offenses — to one run over the first four innings. Greinke yielded a solo home run to Cody Bellinger, who set the National League rookie record for home runs with 39, in the fifth and another to Austin Barnes to lead off the sixth before exiting.

Greinke’s final line — five-plus innings, three runs, four hits, five walks, four strikeouts — wasn’t pretty, but he still managed to keep the D-Backs in the game. They were never truly out of it until Paul Goldschmidt swung and missed for the final out.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, however, argues that “Greinke’s role in the Diamondbacks’ demise can’t be understated.” Hernandez wrote, “What Madison Bumgarner did in leading the San Francisco Giants to the World Series in 2014, Greinke did the exact opposite over the past week,” also referencing Greinke’s subpar performance in the NL Wild Card game against the Rockies. Later, Hernandez concludes that Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was “vindicated” for not re-signing Greinke when he opted out after the 2015 season.

Friedman didn’t exactly choose not to re-sign Greinke. He offered the right-hander a five-year contract approaching $160 million. Greinke wound up taking a six-year, $206.5 million deal from the Diamondbacks. It was more that Friedman didn’t want to tack on an extra $9-10 million per year. He still wanted Greinke badly.

Furthermore, it isn’t as if Greinke is anathema to postseason success and would’ve prevented the Dodgers from getting to the NLCS. In 2013-15 with the Dodgers, Greinke made six postseason starts, putting up a 2.38 ERA with a 41/5 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. The Dodgers went 3-3 because they scored a grand total of 21 runs in those games. Greinke struggled in his two postseason starts this year in part because he faced really good offenses. The Rockies led the league averaging 5.09 runs per game. The Dodgers were sixth at 4.75. In the playoffs, one faces a higher level of competition. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail. It’s usually not deeper than that.

As far as Greinke being the anti-Bumgarner, what of Paul Goldschmidt and his one hit (a home run) in 11 NLDS at-bats? David Peralta went 1-for-13. A.J. Pollock was 1-for-9 with a homer. The D-Backs scored 11 runs over the three games but five were scored on solo home runs and another five came on Goldschmidt and Brandon Drury home runs in Game 2. Only one run was knocked in via non-homer in the entire series. Greinke’s lackluster performance didn’t help, but he was just one actor in the disappointing show the D-Backs put on over the past five days.

When you make $206.5 million, you’re going to be one of the first targets for criticism and will probably be used as a prop for narrative-building. That Greinke is already being vilified after helping lead Arizona to its first playoff appearance since 2011 is not surprising. But acting like his struggles retroactively paint Friedman a genius is faulty and the D-Backs certainly aren’t regretting bringing him into town.

On a night full of letdowns, Yankees’ defense let them down the most

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Game 4 of the ALCS was a gigantic letdown for the Yankees for myriad reasons. They lost, first and foremost, 8-3 to the Astros to fall behind three games to one. Their fans continued to act boorishly. CC Sabathia exited with an injury, likely the final time he’ll pitch in his career. The offense went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

The biggest letdown of the night, though, was the Yankees’ defense. They committed four errors, their highest total in a postseason game since committing five errors in Game 2 of the 1976 ALCS.

Make no mistake: the two three-run home runs hit by George Springer and Carlos Correa, given up by Masahiro and Chad Green respectively, were the big blows in the game. But the errors contributed to the loss and were downright demoralizing.

The first error came at the start of the top of the sixth inning, when Alex Bregman hit a cue shot to first baseman DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu couldn’t read the bounce and the ball clanked off of his knee, allowing Bregman to reach safely. He would score later in the inning on Correa’s blast.

The Yankees committed two errors in the top of the eighth, leading to a run. Yuli Gurriel hit another grounder to LeMahieu, which he couldn’t handle. That not only allowed Gurriel to reach safely, but Bregman — who led off with a double — moved to third base. He would score when second baseman Gleyber Torres couldn’t handle a Yordan Álvarez grounder.

Error number four occurred when Altuve hit a grounder to Torres to lead off the top of the ninth. The ball skipped right under his glove. Facing Michael Brantley, Jonathan Loaisiga uncorked a wild pitch which advanced Altuve to second base. Brantley followed up with a line drive single to left field, plating Altuve for another run. Loaisiga would throw another wild pitch facing Bregman but that one didn’t come back to haunt him.

The Yankees can’t control injuries, the behavior of their fans, or how good the Astros’ pitching is on any given night. They can control the quality of their defense. On Thursday, it was a farce, and now they’re staring down the barrel of having to win three consecutive games against the Astros to stave off elimination.