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Sunday's Top 5: Zack Greinke extends his scoreless streak

7/20/2015

1. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers: Running his scoreless innings streak up to 43 2/3 innings pitched? OK, maybe that’s what we’ve come to expect from Dodgers starters, since Greinke hasn’t just exceeded what he achieved during his peak season with the Royals back in 2009, he joins record-holder Orel Hershiser (1988) and previous record holder Don Drysdale (1968) on the short list of awesome Dodgers squelching opponents at the plate.

But wait, there’s more! He’s also adapting his stuff to his circumstance. And joined by Clayton Kershaw, he provides the Dodgers half of a one-two punch that -- if reinforced -- could be hard to beat in the postseason.

But the one thing that might be the most spectacular about this was that Greinke beat Max Scherzer -- arguably the best pitcher in recent seasons -- as well as beating the Nationals, the best lineup he’s yet faced during the streak. Going into Sunday’s action, the Nats ranked 11th in runs scored, stronger than all of Greinke’s previous stymied foes in his five previous scoreless starts, with the Rangers (13th) the previous toughest team, easily outshining the Cubs (24th), Marlins (25th), Mets (28th) and Phillies (29th).

We’re already into unusual territory. Greinke could be awesome on Friday against the Mets and still “fail” by giving up a run. He’s had some good fortune in hitting a sweet spot in the schedule in terms of opponents and ballparks -- no trips to Coors Field or the Gap, for example -- but that doesn’t diminish the magnitude of what he’s done or what he’s capable of doing.

2. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros: After a heavy first-half workload, there was a lot of reasonable concern over how well Keuchel might pitch in the second half. While there’s a lot of baseball left to play, you can consider his first start since the All-Star Game a positive indicator that he’s still far from being worn down to the nub. Keuchel shut down the Rangers in the Astros’ 10-0 win, delivering his fourth Game Score of the year of 85 or better by striking out 13 Rangers in seven innings, giving him four among the top 50 starts on the season -- more than Scherzer, or Kershaw, or Greinke -- all while pitching in the DH league. Finesse may not be as awe-inspiring as pure stuff, but zeroes on the scoreboard are their own reward.

3. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees: Tex hadn’t hit a game-winning homer in the seventh inning or later since the 2009 ALDS, which seems pretty remarkable in itself. But there’s something perhaps even more incredible about his career:

When Tex stepped in against Fernando Rodney and took F-Rod into the cheap seats for his 23rd homer to break a 1-1 tie and deliver a win, he may not have ended one particular streak, but he did the next best thing to help the Yankees protect their expanding lead in the AL East.

4. The Oakland Athletics offense: The A’s ripped five home runs against the Twins, three of them off former teammate Tommy Milone, to clobber Minnesota in a 14-1 win. Coming into Sunday’s game, the A’s were next-to-last in the AL in Isolated Power, producing at just a .134 clip, and delivering on pre-season concerns that this year’s A’s were doomed to suffer from an extended power outage.

Among those going yard were DH Billy Butler hitting his ninth and RF Josh Reddick hitting a grand slam, both of whom are supposed to be key sources of slugging, but the fun name in the mix was former Nats, Marlins and Rangers farmhand Jake Smolinski hitting two homers to deliver his best day ever as a big leaguer. Whether he sticks as a designated “get lefties” masher or something more remains to be seen, but given the A’s need for slugging, a day like this means he’s at least making the most of his opportunity within a month of getting snagged off waivers from the Rangers.

5. Marco Estrada, Toronto Blue Jays: Estrada had thrown the best game of his career just a month ago on June 24 against these same Rays, whiffing 10 and coming up an out shy of pitching a complete-game shutout in a 1-0 win. In its way, beating the Rays again on Sunday was better, because while he settled for “just” eight shutout innings and five K’s in a 4-0 win, this time around he beat Rays ace Chris Archer and got the Jays back up to .500.

Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.