LOS ANGELES (AP) Zack Greinke is in midseason form. Cole Hamels is just starting his season.
Greinke outpitched Hamels with seven strong innings, Hanley Ramirez homered and Yasiel Puig drove in two runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night.
”It wasn’t like everything was incredible, but I could use anything in or away at any time,” Greinke said. ”For the most part, throughout my whole career, I’ve had at least two pitches. There have been very few games where I don’t have two pitches working, and usually there’s three.”
Greinke (4-0) allowed two runs and five hits while striking out 11 and walking one batter intentionally. Manager Don Mattingly tried to squeeze one more inning out of the right-hander, but lifted him after Jayson Nix drove Greinke’s 108th pitch to left-center for a leadoff homer.
J.P. Howell got three outs in the eighth, and Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save after the Dodgers picked up a couple of insurance runs in the eighth on Ramirez’s leadoff homer to center and Justin Turner’s RBI single off Shawn Camp.
Greinke is off to the second-best start of his 11-year career. He won his first six decisions in 2009 with Kansas City, when he finished 16-8 and established career bests with a 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts en route to the AL Cy Young Award.
”He’s been a great pitcher. He took off in Kansas City when he won that Cy Young and he’s been good ever since,” Hamels said. ”He’s a true competitor and he’s pretty smart. He definitely knows how to pitch, and you know when you have to face a guy like him, you have to keep the other guy from scoring because he’s going to do the same.”
It was Greinke’s 18th double-digit strikeout game in the majors and his first in 33 starts with the Dodgers. This was the 17th consecutive start in which Greinke pitched at least five innings while allowing fewer than three runs.
Hamels took the loss in his season debut, after missing the first three weeks because of biceps tendinitis. The 30-year-old left-hander made 86 pitches, allowing two runs and six hits over six innings with five strikes and a walk. He made 30 or more starts in each of the previous six seasons, so starting the season this late was an adjustment for him.
”That’s in the past. I don’t really think about last year or last week. I just keep going forward and try to get healthy,” Hamels said. ”I was worried about what I had to do – build up my pitch going and get ready to start every five days. That’s what transpired for the past couple of weeks. That’s kind of all I could do.
”I knew what I was going into. It was just a matter of preparing myself just like I normally have and getting ready in a spring training-type setting. It was just a couple of weeks later than everybody else.”
Puig struck out his first two times up, but lined an RBI single to right in the fifth to put the Dodgers ahead 2-1 after Hamels gave up a two-out single by Drew Butera and walked Greinke.
”You can never walk the pitcher. I understand Greinke is a very good hitter, but at the same time, you have to let him hit his way on,” Hamels said. ”That right there was the ballgame. It decided everything in terms of what transpired in the next inning and it racked up my pitch count right there.”
Juan Uribe’s sacrifice fly gave Los Angeles 1-0 lead in the second, after Matt Kemp led off with the first of his two doubles. Ryan Howard tied it in the fourth with an RBI single after a leadoff double by Jimmy Rollins.
”One of the keys, where Rollins hit that leadoff double, I didn’t even try to keep him from scoring,” Greinke said. ”It would be really tough. As long as you just limit it to that one run, it’s not that big of a deal. That’s kind of the mindset. It’s been working.”
Greinke had nine strikeouts through the first five innings, including five in a row after Howard’s hit. Greinke doubled with two outs in the seventh and scored on Puig’s triple off the right field fence.
NOTES: Two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw will make a minor league rehab start on Friday with Class A Rancho Cucamonga as he works his way back from a muscle strain in his upper back. He last pitched for the Dodgers in a season-opening 3-1 win over Arizona during the team’s two-game visit to Australia. … The Phillies have 18 extra-base hits over their last four games after getting none in their previous four – the club’s longest drought since a four-game stretch in May 1968. … Dodgers 1B and cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez, whose 16-game hitting streak ended Tuesday, didn’t start for the first time this season. He pinch-hit in the ninth and flied out to the warning track in center with two men on.