LOS ANGELES -- When he was asked about the comfort of having Zack Greinke start a winner-take-all Game 5 against the Mets Thursday night, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly answered with caution about such a crapshoot: "Anything can happen, honestly." Probably the worst thing that can happen is that it will be Greinke's last game as a Dodger.
It is a possibility. The pitcher who dominated the sport with a 1.66 ERA this season, has an option to become a free agent, thanks to a clause in his six-year $147-million contract. If he chooses to opt out, on top of a defeat Thursday night, it could do more than ruin a good year. It could change the whole fabric of the franchise. The Dodgers revolve around the dual-ace presence of Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.
"They've given us two guys that stop streaks, save your bullpen, are just day-in, day-out consistent guys. You can really count on what we're going to get from them 90-something percent of the time," Mattingly said in a conference call Wednesday, a day off between Kershaw's gem in Game 4 and the National League Division Series finale. "You felt like you were going to win that day and that takes the pressure off of all the other starters."
He was answering a question about Greinke's three years with the team, not intentionally speaking in the past tense.
Not that Greinke has given an iota of indication that he is leaving. Even more low key in a conference call than he is in person, he said, "I haven't thought about it too much, but everything's been great so far. I really can't think of anything not positive to say about the whole experience. It's all been good."
Thursday night has the potential to be one of his most interesting moments. He will be matched up against Jacob deGrom. Both are 1-0 in this series, although Greinke wasn't as overpowering in Game 2 as deGrom was in Game 1. Still, Greinke did prevail over Noah Syndergaard and his 100-mph fastball.
Comparing the two opponents, Greinke said, "They both have amazing fastballs. I think deGrom might have a little more location, I don't know. They're both really nasty and they both are good hitting pitchers. So they're about as similar as you're going to get, I guess. Just a little more experience from deGrom maybe."
Unlike Greinke, deGrom has to worry about former Met Justin Turner, who is batting .467 with a 1.233 OPS this series. Although Mattingly removed him late in the game Tuesday night at Citi Field because Turner had some swelling in his ailing knee, the manager said he expects his regular third baseman to start Thursday night.
The prospect of having Greinke working at home might seem to give the Dodgers an edge. "The fans do like us a little better there," Kershaw said, but he added, "You know what? It's probably dead even, to be honest."
The thought of losing the game and Greinke is not something they wanted to contemplate.