On July 31, the Houston Astros looked to the near future when they traded away their long-term plans, acquiring Zack Greinke from the Arizona Diamondbacks for a package of four top prospects. Greinke had been Arizona’s ace, and Houston plucked him from the middling National League franchise with the postseason in mind.
Sending pitching prospects J.B. Bukauskas and Corbin Martin, as well as infielders Josh Rojas and Seth Beer to the D-Backs, they paid a hefty price for the potential future Hall of Famer. But it’s a price worth paying if the 36-year-old Greinke can answer the call in the biggest start that his incredible career demands.
The Astros host the Washington Nationals in Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The seventh game of a compelling series was forced by the Nationals on Tuesday, as the club hit three home runs and rode the heroic performance of Stephen Strasburg, who pitched into the ninth inning against a red-hot offense.
On the hill for the opposition, a team who has won all three games played in Texas in the series, stands Max Scherzer, a no-doubt first ballot Hall of Fame inductee, not to mention traditional starters Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez, who will be available out of the bullpen. The Nationals offense is spearheaded by NL Most Valuable Player Award candidate Anthony Rendon (who had five RBIs in Game 6) and 21-year-old superstar Juan Soto (who knocked his third home run of the series off Justin Verlander in Game 6).
The Nationals are seeking to lift the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time in franchise history, dating back to their days in Montreal. With an uncertain future and an aging pitching core, this could be their last great chance for a long time. The Astros are looking to establish somewhat of a modern dynasty with their second World Series championship in three years, with most of their high-end players contributing massively to both title runs. It all comes down to one nine-inning game that has all the makings of a classic.
Tasked with shutting down a dangerous offense, out-dueling the superhuman righty on the other side of the starting pitching battle, and altering the course of baseball history is the biggest trade deadline acquisition in baseball this year: Zack Greinke.
With a knack for being calm and composed in hostile situations, the right-hander will need every bit of that collected and tight-knit demeanor when his back foot hits the rubber for the first pitch on Wednesday night. His last two postseason starts have been solid, albeit short, so there’s a confident lead-in if you’re in the Astros’ camp.
In Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, Greinke worked himself out of early trouble to pitch 4.1 innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He dealt 4.2 innings in Game 3 of the World Series, fanning six and allowing just one run, helping the Astros win in both starts.
Greinke was exceptional for the Astros in August and September, going 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA in 10 starts. He has pitched a total of nine innings with 11 strikeouts and just two earned runs allowed over his last two outings. But that doesn’t matter now, and a good regular season option is not what they traded for.
Greinke’s biggest start of his major-league career, something that can define his legacy, is Game 7. He won’t be alone in his quest for the victory, with the fiery Gerrit Cole and the surprisingly effective Jose Urquidy ready to go out of the bullpen. But his efforts in setting the tone for the night, and limiting the early hiccups that have plagued the Astros in the postseason, is the biggest piece of the puzzle.
He isn’t the guy they want, but Greinke is as good as they get in this situation. The Astros traded parts of their future away for a better chance at winning the World Series, and a high-end starter like Greinke is what they coveted and received. Houston can get instant gratification in their transaction with a win, one of the biggest in the history of the game, and with Greinke as a pivotal presence on the mound.