Masterful Greinke recaptures ace form

Masterful Greinke recaptures ace form

HOUSTON -- This is the ace Arizona paid $200 million over six years for this past offseason.

Zack Greinke has been plenty solid of late, but he truly harnessed his Cy Young form in the D-backs' 3-0 win over the Astros on Thursday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.

And the checklist from his outing is impressive:

1) A season-high 11 strikeouts? Done.

2) Seven innings of shutout ball? That was better than counterpart Dallas Keuchel.

3) Greinke's fourth straight win? It was one the D-backs desperately needed.

4) No walks or home runs allowed? He accomplished that for the first time in 2016.

"We've been playing really well in the games I've pitched," Greinke said. "This was actually probably the least amount of runs we've scored in my games. I feel confident in what we got going right now."

Greinke left no doubt to being a bona fide ace on Thursday afternoon, as he mixed pitches with precision and bested last year's American League Cy Young Award winner to salvage one game for Arizona in this four-game home-and-home set.

Greinke escapes jam

"He was just masterful out there," manager Chip Hale said. "He used all his pitches. He used his curveball a lot more than he has the last few outings. … Just did a great job against a team that's been extremely hot-hitting against us in a good ballpark to hit in."

Greinke struggled out of the gate this season on the heels of signing a massive $206.5 million deal last December.

But Greinke has been an ace throughout his career, anchoring pitching staffs in Kansas City and Milwaukee and joining Clayton Kershaw for the best one-two tandem in the game with the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

The 0-2 start in April has given way to a 7-1 stretch since, and his stuff is as sharp as ever. Greinke located his four-seamer on the corners and was able to walk a tightrope around the Astros' powers hitters with his off-speed stuff.

"When I look at them, I know when I threw a strike offspeed, it could be a lot of trouble for the pitcher," Greinke said. "I had to really locate it well because you're living dangerously. I mixed pitches well today, and that was the key."

Greinke's 10th strikeout

Among that mix was a potent slider that Greinke said looked better to Houston hitters than it felt out of his own hands.

"It felt alright, but the swings they were taking, they were acting like it was really good, so I started throwing it more," Greinke half-joked. "I wasn't real confident early on, but it got better."

Greinke has made it to the middle innings with great outings intact before failing to finish them often this year, even during his recent stretch of solid outings.

So the focus became getting to the late frames with a lead, especially considering the dire bullpen situation for Arizona, which had used relievers for 17 innings in the previous three games against Houston.

"Just tried to stay [at a high level] because a lot of times I've done that early and then got worse as the game went on," Greinke said. "Today, I just stayed sharp throughout the whole game."

Added Hale: "It was exactly what we needed."

Chris Abshire is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.