MILWAUKEE Zack Greinke is by no means perfect.
The former Cy Young winner has had his share of ups and downs since coming to Milwaukee before the 2011 season, including a miserable first road start this year in Chicago that saw him give up eight earned runs and nine hits in 3 23innings.
But that was on the road. At home in Milwaukee, Greinke has been about as perfect as it gets.
In his first start of the season against the Cardinals, the right-hander tossed seven scoreless innings and added seven strikeouts to boot. And with another seven-inning, seven-strikeout performance against the Dodgers on Wednesday night (this time a no-decision), Greinke remains a perfect 12-0 at Miller Park good enough for the longest such winning streak ever by a Brewers' pitcher.
It's a streak so impressive that only six other starting pitchers in modern baseball history have managed to match it, the last being Kenny Rogers, who won 15 straight games in Oakland between the 1998 and 1999 seasons.
"I've seen Zack for a while now," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Nothing really surprises me with him. He's got weapons for everybody."
But as he showed in his first road start of the season, those weapons have been significantly less deadly away from home not just in Milwaukee, but during the last few years in Kansas City as well.
Since 2008, Greinke has won 37 games and lost just 11 in front of a home crowd, and in his first season at Miller Park in 2011, he struck out almost two more batters per walk at home. On the road, however, Greinke has registered just a 19-28 record in that same span. Only once between 2008 and 2012 has he finished a season above-.500 on the road.
"He's the same guy," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He prepares the same way, and it's the same confidence. I know at the beginning of the season last year he wasn't very good on the road, but after that, I think he pitched well anywhere."
Still, the stats beg the question: what is it about playing at home that changes how Greinke pitches?
"It's just a comfort zone," Brewers pitcher Chris Narveson said. "When you're at home, there's that comfort and that support."
And Mattingly agrees. He said before the game on Greinke's improved pitching at home is by no means uncommon. Lucky for the Dodgers, their pitcher on Wednesday night, Chris Capuano, may have found some home comfort himself in Milwaukee, having pitched there for seven seasons through 2010. He allowed just two earned runs in six innings of work.
But after his seven-inning no-decision on Wednesday, Greinke said, other than the fact that the fans making things a bit easier on him, he's just as comfortable pitching on the road.
"I feel comfortable everywhere," Greinke said. "But the team last year, it just seemed like we had so many games like the last two where we just find a way to win the game. That's kind of how it's been for the whole team last year."
With such dominance at home, Greinke has shown an affinity for being an ace on a staff that's loaded with talent. But with a mediocre road resume in the last four seasons and plenty of pressure on this year's staff, Greinke's road performances may be under a bigger microscope than any other pitching matchups Milwaukee has this season. And with Greinke in a contract year, those games could make a big difference for the future of the Brewers' rotation.
For now, however, with just one road start under his belt in 2012 and two solid starts at home, Milwaukee will gladly take perfection inside Miller Park, where Greinke should make his next start against the Astros.
"Zack is a confident guy," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He knows when he's had an off game, and he had an off game the last one. He bounced back just like he did in spring training. He's confident in what he's doing, and we're really confident in what he's doing. He looks like a guy who's going to have a great year."
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