Zack Greinke was working on a shutout in yet another spectacular string of starts for the Diamondbacks on Wednesday when suddenly he called for an athletic trainer to come to the mound.
Just like that, the right-hander left the game in the eighth inning with what the club described as “abdominal tightness.”
Greinke is set to receive an MRI on Thursday, which is an off-day for the team. It is not yet known whether Greinke will be forced to miss his next start.
Greinke had been spinning a beauty against Pittsburgh before the injury, never throwing more than 16 pitches in any of of his seven full innings of scoreless work and lowering his ERA to 2.78 for the season. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.
The Diamondbacks (24-20) won the game 11-1 and took two out of three from the Pirates. Arizona is now 3-4 on a 10-game homestand that concludes with three games against the San Francisco Giants beginning Friday.
Greinke, 35, called for the trainer and was removed from the game after throwing his 95th pitch. Manager Torey Lovullo accompanied the trainer and quickly removed Greinke from the game with two outs in the inning and a two-strike count on the Pirates’ Chris Stratton.
Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke discusses abdominal injury in start vs. Pirates
Richard Morin, azcentral sports
“It’s hard to say right now,” Lovullo said when asked for his level of concern regarding Greinke. “You’re asking me and I’m always in the clouds and optimistic about things. I’m going to, obviously, hope for the absolute best. I feel like Zack’s honesty in walking off the mound the way he did and not pitching through anything was a really, really smart move.
“We’ll have more information and I’ll be able to get you that information the next time I talk to you guys on Friday, hopefully.”
Greinke said he felt the discomfort after releasing a previous pitch and “knew something was wrong and didn’t want to take a chance at hurting it more.”
Although Greinke said he wasn’t in much pain, he compared this to an oblique injury he suffered in 2016. Greinke said the injury is closer to his left side and is “around the intercostal, oblique, that general area.”
“It’s a little different,” Greinke said. “It reminded me of the oblique thing from 2016. It was lighter and so that’s what I thought it was at first, the oblique thing in 2016. I didn’t want to push it and hopefully it wouldn’t be as bad, but it seems to be in a different spot. It’s lighter. Last time it was six weeks so hopefully this won’t even be six days.”
Greinke is off to one of the best starts of his 16-year career. If he is forced to miss significant time, it would be a major blow to Greinke and the Diamondbacks, who entered play Wednesday four and a half games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talks win over Pirates, injury to Zack Greinke.
Richard Morin, azcentral sports
Since Greinke’s debacle on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium (seven earned runs), he has gone 6-0 with a 1.92 ERA. If the injury is not serious, Lovullo agreed Greinke is likely on a trajectory toward his sixth All-Star game.
“If I were to eliminate the one game (in Los Angeles) I think this is the best stretch that I’ve seen him, the most consistent that I’ve seen him,” Lovullo said of Greinke. “It’s angle to the fastball, it’s throwing fastballs to both sides of the plate, and he’s got three secondary pitches he can throw at any time. The slider is back in play in a very, very effective manner. I know last year that pitch was maybe a little bit hit-or-miss for him. He’s got the changeup and the looping curveball that he likes to throw as well.
“It’s the consistency of landing all three of those off-speed pitches on top of the angle fastball he can throw anywhere he wants at any time. We get spoiled by him. We know that he is extremely locked in right now, and when that happens, it’s fun to watch.”
A long-term injury to Greinke would not only derail what has been an outstanding individual start for the veteran, it would take away arguably the Diamondbacks’ most valuable player.
According to the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric tabulated by Baseball Reference, Greinke entered play Wednesday with a WAR rating nearly twice as high as any other Diamondbacks player this season. Through 44 games, Greinke has accumulated 2.1 WAR. Right-hander Luke Weaver is next on that list with 1.3 WAR.
In addition to his 7 2/3 innings of shutout pitching, Greinke also walked and stole a base on Wednesday, becoming the first MLB pitcher since 1966 to steal a base and have a multi-homer game in the same season. Greinke is hitting .292 this season to go along with a 1.054 OPS in 2019.
Richard Morin covers the Coyotes and Diamondbacks for azcentral sports. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ramorin_azc.