LOS ANGELES (AP) — Houston pitcher Zack Greinke’ held up two fingers toward Oakland’s Ramón Laureano and Astros catcher Martín Maldonado in the second inning of their AL Division Series Game 4 on Thursday, and Laureano hit a hanging slider 440 feet to left for a tiebreaking three-run homer.
Could Greinke have been signaling his pitch?
Greinke has at times used a hand signal to switch sign sets mid-inning with Laureano.
Laureano entered 3 for 22 in the postseason but didn’t seem concerned about facing Greinke.
“We know all of the pitches. It just another guy on the mound,” Laureano said before the game. “Go out there and hopefully we have the best performance we have ever had.”
It is the first postseason homer Greinke allowed since last year’s Game 7 of the World Series against Washington, when Anthony Rendon’s solo shot began the Nationals’ comeback.
Greinke was announced as the Game 4 starter by manager Dusty Baker about three hours before the scheduled first pitch.
The 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner is Houston’s most experienced starter but has been dealing with arm soreness. Greinke, who turns 37 on Oct. 21, threw off flat ground after Tuesday’s game and told Baker Thursday morning he was ready to go.
Houston was a win away from reaching the AL Championship Series for the fourth straight year.
“He had to hear from the doctor he didn’t have anything structurally wrong with his arm, which eased his mind. It made it easier for him to make the decision,” Baker said.
Greinke had pitched five innings or fewer in each of his previous four starts, including the wild card series opener against Minnesota, allowing 12 earned runs over 18 2/3 innings in that span.
Baker said he wasn’t sure how long Greinke could go against the Athletics. His other concern is Houston’s bullpen, which has been taxed during the first three games.
“We hope to get as many quality innings as Greinke can give us and not have too many bullpen innings. The longer your starter can go the less mixing and matching you have to do,” Baker said.
The bullpen had not allowed an earned run in its first four postseason games, but gave up five runs and six hits Wednesday.
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