BY ZACH HAYES
Special to ESPN Wisconsin
The old adage “home sweet home” would certainly apply to Zack Greinke.
After finishing last season with a perfect 11-0 record at Miller Park, Greinke picked up where he left off in his first start of 2012, shutting down the Cardinals over seven strong frames to pace Milwaukee’s 6-0 victory. Greinke accomplished what co-ace Yovani Gallardo could not during the season opener: avoid the home run ball and tame an explosive St. Louis order that had scored 84 runs in their previous 13 games against the Brewers.
“That’s as good as it gets,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “That’s what we saw in spring training which is tremendous velocity and life on the velocity. If he does this for us this year he’s going to have some kind of year.”
A day after Brewers general Doug Melvin revealed he was engaged in contract talks with Greinke’s agent, the right-hander threw 61 of his 91 pitches for strikes, surrendered just three hits, struck out seven and walked none. Greinke held St. Louis’ middle-of-the-order bats of Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman hitless, consistently throwing 93-94 miles per hour on the gun and mixing up his pitches beautifully.
“I felt fine when I came back last year, just the results weren’t there,” Greinke said. “I wasn’t pitching that good, but I felt good. It just wasn’t as sharp as it should have been. Maybe it was because of not having spring training. (Pitching coach Rick Kranitz) worked real good with me start of spring and got on track pretty early so far this year.”
Overall, Milwaukee could not have scripted a better bounce-back game from their 11-5 loss on Opening Day: a Greinke masterpiece coupled with a pair of Corey Hart homers, Aramis Ramirez first RBI as a Brewer and two booming hits from Ryan Braun, who went 0-for-5 on Friday and struggled all spring with the bat.
Once considered doubtful to even play this series after early March knee surgery, Hart is Milwaukee’s hottest hitter after two games. Hart got the Brewers on the scoreboard with a 447-foot solo shot to left center in the second inning, then added two more Milwaukee runs in the sixth with a blast off St. Louis reliever Victor Marte, completing his 12th career multi-homer game.
“(Wainwright) missed a spot and I was able to get to it,” Hart said. “The other guy was one guy who I hadn’t seen before. Sometimes it happens and I got lucky I guess.”
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, who was making his first start in 563 days following Tommy John surgery, showed flashes of his old self over 5.2 strong innings. Wainwright settled down after Hart’s first home run, holding 13 straight Brewers hitless until Rickie Weeks started the sixth inning with a single. The Cardinals starter displayed the knee-buckling curveball that made him a Cy Young runner-up in 2010, giving up just four hits, three earned runs and striking out six Brewers.
“I saw the great pitcher that he was,” Roenicke said. “The velocity is not what he used to pitch at and it's incredible that a guy can pitch at a lower velocity and still do whatever he wants to do. He’s really impressive. This is a true legitimate number one starter.”
But Wainwright not only failed to match Greinke’s shutout masterpiece, he couldn’t contain the power bats of Hart, Braun and Weeks, who blasted a solo shot into the Brewers bullpen in the eighth inning to give Milwaukee a 5-0 cushion. Both Francisco Rodriguez and Jose Veras pitched scoreless innings to end the game.
Throughout their championship season, the Cardinals prided themselves on winning the getaway game of every series, a mantra they called “happy flights.” Brewers starter Randy Wolf hopes to spoil their fun opposite Cardinals counterpart Lance Lynn in Sunday’s rubber match.
“I think it was big for us to come back today and show that we’re still a good team and I think we did that,” Hart said. “I think we know going forward and they know going forward that we’re a good team and they’re a good team. It’s going to be a battle all year.”
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