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Rounding Third: Greinke no longer taking a backseat to Kershaw

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Updated: 5/21/2014 12:40 pm

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It's not hard to get lost in the shuffle when you pitch alongside someone as dominant as Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw.

Even when you are a former American League Cy Young Award winner yourself.

Dodgers righty Zack Greinke was terrific in his first season with the Dodgers a year ago, winning 15 of 19 decisions for a major league best .789 winning percentage, while pitching to a 2.63 ERA.

Not bad numbers, but they paled in comparison to Kershaw's brilliant campaign that saw him go 16-9 with a league-low 1.83 ERA, a league-high 232 strikeouts over 236 innings and was generally was regarded as the best pitcher on the planet.

Ultimately, Kershaw won his second NL Cy Young Award, while Greinke finished a distant eighth in voting.


Oh, and Kershaw was rewarded for his efforts with a $215 million contract this offseason.

This year, though, it's been a different story, as the roles have been reversed.

Greinke has been the one who has looked like the best pitcher in baseball, while Kershaw has struggled to find his way following a month long stint on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his back.

With Kershaw out, Greinke more than picked up the slack and put forth his finest effort of the season on Friday in Arizona, as he held the Diamondbacks off the board for eight innings to run his record to 7-1 on the year to go along with a 2.03 ERA. .

"I forget how much fun it is to catch him," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "He's so imaginative, he has so many weapons."

Greinke allowed five hits, all singles, with six strikeouts. Amazingly, he has now allowed two runs or less in 21 consecutive starts since last June, the longest streak in the Major Leagues since at least 1914.

He has been the definition of consistency and the Dodgers are 29-8 in his starts with them since he signed a 6-year, $159 million deal before last season.

As good as he was last year, though, Greinke's fast start has reminded everyone of the pitcher who won an AL Cy Young Award back in 2009 while pitching for the Kansas City Royals.

But, he'll be the first to tell you, he's nowhere near the same pitcher he was back then.

"In '09, I just felt nasty to where I could tell them what's coming and they still didn't have a chance," said Greinke, who was 7-1 with a 0.82 ERA after his first nine starts that year. "Now I'm average to above average (stuff) and not where I was, but I mix it up and keep the hitters guessing. It was fastballs and sliders down, a good combination."

Kershaw, meanwhile, had perhaps the worst start of his career less than 24 hours later, as the same team that Greinke shut down, hammered him to the tune of seven runs and six hits in just 1 2/3 innings.

"I just got hit hard tonight. I don't know why," Kershaw said. "I left some balls up and they got hits. I can't really make excuses saying they found holes. They hit balls hard and they hit balls in gaps. I just got hit hard tonight."

Of course, red flags are now raised because never has Kershaw looked so vulnerable. Not to mention the poor outing comes on the heels of him just retuning from the disabled list.

Maybe it was just one of those nights. Or maybe there's something else going on.

Either way the Dodgers should still in good shape with Greinke leading the way.

But just imagine how good the Dodgers will be once they are both firing on all cylinders.

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