Greinke now perfect 13-0
MILWAUKEE The Milwaukee Brewers have become accustomed to winning home games when Zack Greinke is on the mound, but this one was anything but easy.
Finally scoring some early runs but still having to hang on for dear life Monday night, the Brewers held off the Houston Astros, 6-5, at Miller Park.
“It was fun,” Greinke said after running his record to 13-0 in 18 home starts since joining the Brewers.
Fun in a playing-in-traffic kind of way. Greinke needed 115 pitches to navigate six innings, allowing eight hits and two walks but striking out nine—many of those punch-outs coming in make-or-break situations.
“I really struggled with guys on base,” said Greinke. “It was really nice to be able to get out of some jams. They had some good at-bats. It definitely wasn’t easy out there today.”
The evening started on an up note for the Brewers, who scored three runs in the first inning off Houston right-hander Lucas Harrell. Ryan Braun singled in the first run, Aramis Ramirez tripled him in and Corey Hart followed with a laser-beam sacrifice fly to deep right.
How rare was the three-run outburst? The Brewers hadn’t scored in the first inning since tallying five times on April 10 in Chicago, a span of 13 games.
“I like what we did offensively,” said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, whose club is 18-0 at Miller Park behind Greinke. “We scored in four different innings.
“It was really nice to give the starting pitcher a little slack where they don’t have to feel when they get a guy at third base that they always have to strike somebody out to make sure they don’t score. Offensively, we need to do more of that.”
Still, Greinke scuffled from the outset, allowing a one-out homer in the first inning to Jed Lowrie, the first on the ledger of both players this season. After striking out the first two hitters in the second inning, Greinke allowed a pair of hits before getting Harrell to hit a comebacker for the third out.
It got no easier in the third inning when Jordan Schafer led off with a double to right-center and J.D. Martinez walked with one down, putting runners on the corners. With the infield playing in, Greinke induced Carlos Lee to pop out to second and retired Brian Bogusevic on a grounder to second to escape with a 3-1 lead.
After his only 1-2-3 inning, Greinke found more trouble in the fifth and had to do some major damage control. After singles by Harrell and Schafer, he whiffed Lowrie and Martinez, but a single up the middle loaded the bases.
Greinke then did something he rarely does, turning a 1-2 count into a walk by Bogusevic to force in a run. He recovered to strike out Chris Johnson, leaving the bases loaded and keeping the Brewers on top, 4-2.
“The whole time, I was like, ‘Just don’t let it become a big inning,’?” said Greinke. “I was trying to make a good pitch (to Bogusevic) and not let him get a double or something and make it a big inning.
“I was just trying to limit the damage. I didn’t want it to be three or four runs that inning.”
The Brewers’ margin grew to 5-2 in the bottom of the inning when Braun lined a two-out homer to left center. A run-scoring wild pitch by reliever Brandon Lyon in the sixth made it 6-2, but that inning concluded with a brutal collision at home plate.
With the bases loaded, Rickie Weeks lifted a foul pop down the first base line. With Lee making the catch going away from the plate, Mat Gamel tried to tag from third, but Lee made a nice throw to catcher Jason Castro, who then absorbed a hard hit from Gamel trying unsuccessfully to dislodge the ball.
The seemingly safe lead slipped away quickly when reliever Jose Veras took over in the seventh and had his worst outing of the season. Bogusevic tripled in two runs with one down and Johnson followed with an RBI single up the middle, making it a one-run game.
Boos rained down from the stands as Veras walked Castro on four pitches, then fell behind in the count, 2-0, to Jose Altuve. But Veras recovered to strike out Altuve and retire pinch-hitter Matt Downs on a grounder to third, allowing the Brewers to escape with the lead.
“The second out was the big out,” said Roenicke. “I thought he threw some quality pitches to that batter that he hadn’t been throwing. When we saw him throw the quality pitches, we thought because of that sequence he was OK to throw to the next guy.”
Francisco Rodriguez shook off some recent shaky outings to pitch a 1-2-3 eighth in his 10th appearance and John Axford struck out the side after allowing a leadoff single to Lee in the ninth, extending his club record to 46 consecutive saves in the regular season.
“We need to bust out and get a lead so we can bring in some other guys,” said Roenicke, who admitted concern about using Rodriguez and Axford so often.