The Houston Astros should utilize Zack Greinke as a pinch hitter in certain situations.
If you’re like me, watching the Houston Astros lose Wednesday’s 13-inning affair to the Dodgers was beyond frustrating. They went 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position and only managed to score one run in the four extra innings despite the fact that they started each of those innings with a runner on second base. This is where Zack Greinke could’ve thrown a curveball of a different kind.
In a couple of those innings, all they needed to do was push across that run to win the game. Still, for some inexplicable reason, they never attempted to bunt that runner over to third. That would’ve meant that a sacrifice fly, wild pitch or well-placed ground ball could’ve won the game. But no one bunted. Why?
For one, bunting isn’t done much anymore except for pitchers in the National League — and that’s not even happening this year with the universal DH in place. If it’s not being done, it may not be taught hardly anymore, so I’m not sure how skilled the Astros hitters are at bunting. Small ball is disappearing, but in these situations, it seems silly not to try it, especially when your offense can’t score by swinging the bats.
This is where manager Dusty Baker could and should have used Greinke. More than half of his career starts have come while pitching for a National League team, and he has 47 career sacrifice bunts. If none of the position players are capable, Greinke can sure lay down a bunt.
Beyond that, he’s also an excellent hitter for being a pitcher. He’s won two Silver Slugger awards and hit nine career home runs with a .225 career batting average. You wouldn’t replace one of the regulars with him, but I can think of a particular situation in Wednesday’s game where I would’ve let him hit.
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In the bottom of the 12th, the Astros had runners on first and second with two outs. Jack Mayfield came to the plate, as he pinch ran for DH Michael Brantley earlier in the game. Baker had already emptied the bench, so he was basically stuck letting Mayfield hit in that situation.
Now Mayfield is a nice guy to have as a backup infielder, but his bat is not his strong suit. He came into the game with a career .156/.169/.328 batting line in 26 games from last season. Unfortunately, but not necessarily surprisingly, Mayfield struck out on three pitches to end the inning.
That’s a situation where Greinke probably would’ve been an upgrade at the plate, and the fact that he’d be coming in as the DH would’ve been perfect. He’s a six-time Gold Glove winner and could probably play the infield in a pinch, but the team might not want to risk injury by having him do that.
Still, having him serve as an emergency pinch hitter and resident sacrifice bunter just makes too much sense. He has an incredibly well-rounded skill set, so why not use it? When a sac bunt could put the winning run at third with one out, why not do it? If anyone has the ability to pull it off, it’s Greinke.