ST. LOUIS – Zack Greinke is getting tripped up by first innings.
The Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander allowed the first four St. Louis hitters to reach base and score in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday, which gave him losses in consecutive regular-season starts for the first time in nearly four years.
“It feels like the last two months, the first inning is always the toughest,” Greinke said. “I need to find a way to be better right from the get-go.”
Greinke has a 2.90 ERA and .257 opponents’ batting this year but has struggled in first innings, when his ERA is 5.90 ERA and batters are hitting .306 against him, according to STATS. He gave up two first-inning runs in a 4-1 loss to Detroit in his previous outing July 9.
Greinke (11-6) walked a season-high five on Saturday and gave up four runs and six hits in 5⅔ innings. He lost back-to-back regular-season starts for the first time since Sept. 20 and 25, 2010 for Kansas City at Detroit and Cleveland. He did lose his regular-season finale against Colorado last season and was beaten by Atlanta in his first post-season start.
Coming off a perfect inning in the All-Star game, Greinke allowed four runs during his first 16 pitches. He did not allow a hit over the next three innings but was removed with two out and two on in the sixth.
“Overall, it’s a bad game if you make that many mistakes,” he said. “Especially back-to-back-to-back like that.”
Los Angeles has scored just 12 runs in its last seven games and has three runs in Greinke’s last two starts.
“Right now, I don’t think anyone is hot-hot,” he said. “And that makes it tougher. It definitely helps to have someone come up that’s going to get the job done every time.”
Joe Kelly (2-1) gave up four hits over seven innings in his second outing since a three-month stint on the disabled list caused by a strained left hamstring. He retired his last 13 batters as the Cardinals won for the eighth time in 10 games.
Pirates 3, Rockies 2 (11)
In Pittsburgh, Jordy Mercer doubled home Neil Walker with one out in the bottom of the 11th to lift the Pirates over Colorado.
Walker led off the inning with a single against Chad Bettis (0-2), moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored one batter later when Mercer hit a drive deep into the gap in left-center.
Nationals 8, Brewers 3
In Washington, Matt Garza was pulled out in the first inning of his shortest major league start, and Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos drove in three runs apiece to lead the Nationals past Milwaukee.
Garza (6-7) faced eight batters and got just one out, allowing four singles, a double and two walks in the shortest of his 211 big league starts dating to 2006.
Phillies 2, Braves 1
In Atlanta, Cole Hamels held the Braves to four hits through seven innings and Jimmy Rollins hit a two-run homer as Philadelphia edged the Braves.
Hamels (4-5) won for the second time in three starts, giving up one run, striking out nine and walking none. He threw 71 of 95 pitches for strikes.
Padres 6, Mets 0
In San Diego, All-Star Tyson Ross threw seven shutout innings as the light-hitting Padres smacked three homers in a victory that ended New York’s four-game winning streak.
Ross (8-10) allowed only four hits in his first start following his first All-Star appearance. He struck out six and issued three walks. Three relievers pitched the final two innings to seal the Padres’ seventh shutout.
Giants 5, Marlins 3
In Miami, All-Star Tim Hudson pitched into the eighth inning and got the run support he needed as San Francisco defeated the Marlins.
Hunter Pence drove in two runs, and Pablo Sandoval had three hits for the Giants, who have won four of five.
Giancarlo Stanton hit his National League-best 23rd home run for Miami, which has lost six straight.
Diamondbacks 9, Cubs 3
In Phoenix, Miguel Montero hit a go-ahead, three-run double in the fifth and Paul Goldschmidt added a two-run homer as Arizona routed Chicago.
The Diamondbacks tagged Cubs starter Travis Wood (7-9) for seven runs — five earned — and eight hits. He lost his third straight start.