Greinke's outing conjured comparisons to June 10, 2005, when he was a 21-year-old in his first full season with the Royals, pitching an Interleague game here. He hit a home run that night but surrendered three of them on the way to allowing 11 earned runs on 15 hits. It still stands as the worst start of Greinke's career.
"This was bad," he said Saturday, cracking a smile at the end of a tough night, "but that was just rockets getting hit everywhere. That was some of the worst pitching you'll ever see in your life, if you watch that one."
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke did not give Greinke a chance to get to that point on Saturday, pulling his starter after Arizona turned a 5-2 deficit into a 7-5 lead in a bottom of the third inning that decided the game.
To understand his brutal third, Greinke said, you have to look back to the first inning, when Arizona began with four successive singles for a 2-1 lead.
D-backs leadoff man Gerardo Parra poked a low and away fastball to left field to start the rally. Aaron Hill hit another fastball away for an opposite-field single. So Greinke tried to come in, throwing a two-strike slider against Justin Upton, who also singled to the opposite field for Arizona's first run, beating the Brewers' shift. Jason Kubel followed and was the first hitter to pull a pitch, producing another RBI single.
"I started off good, even though they got four straight hits," Greinke said. "Then I just tried to throw as nasty as I could and got out of the jam."
That's just what he did, striking out three straight hitters to escape further damage.
Greinke found more trouble in the second inning but did not allow a run. In the third, he allowed leadoff hits to Upton and Kubel on pitches that were supposed to be up and in, and instead stayed down. Once again, he tried to bear down.
"The third inning it caught up to me, trying to be real nasty," Greinke said. "I tried to get out of it by throwing harder, and throwing better sliders. The third time I tried to do that, it didn't work."
Greinke recorded only one out and surrendered five more runs. Seven of the eight batters he faced in the third inning reached base safely, including Ryan Roberts on a bases-loaded walk and eight-hole hitter John McDonald on the game's key hit, a two-strike, three-run homer that put Arizona ahead.
McDonald had swung at two low sliders to begin that at-bat before Greinke threw another. He hung the 0-and-2 pitch badly, and McDonald hit it into the left-field bleachers for a 7-5 D-backs lead.
"I threw two good ones, and tried to throw the same exact one, not try and make it any better," Greinke said. "I don't know why it happened, it just was a bad pitch and he hit it good."
It was a stunning departure for Greinke (5-2), who has been the Brewers' most effective starting pitcher this season. He entered the night with a 1.76 ERA in his past seven starts and had walked only three of the 101 batters he'd faced in May. On Saturday, Greinke issued three walks in the third inning alone.
"Zack does a great job, there's rarely a time when you watch him pitch that he does things he doesn't want to do," said McDonald, who entered the night with 10 career at-bats against Greinke. "He's got great command. He's able to get strikeouts on balls in the dirt, he's got so many ways to get you out. He's smart, he reads his reports. We didn't chase anything tonight, sometimes you have to get credit to [the hitters]."
That's what Roenicke did.
"What happens is, you come out and make good pitches and they get hit, and now you say, 'Well, what in the world do I have to do?'" Roenicke said. "In the third inning, I think he came out and said every pitch had to be perfect. You can't do that."
Brewers hitters were off to a good start against Arizona rookie left-hander Wade Miley (6-1) before Greinke's ran into trouble.
In the first inning, Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy singled home a run to boost his Major League-best average with runners in scoring position to .529 (18-for-34). Arizona answered in the bottom of the inning, but the Brewers went back ahead in the top of the third, scoring four times against Miley with three extra-base hits and Ryan Braun's run-scoring groundout. Third baseman Cody Ransom, waived by the D-backs on Monday and claimed by the Brewers on Wednesday, pulled a two-run double down the third-base line for a 4-2 Brewers lead. Milwaukee added another run on a Roberts throwing error.
Amazingly, that single four-run outburst matched the Brewers' entire third-inning output in their first 45 games this season. Then, the D-backs answered with five runs against Greinke. The Brewers have now been outscored in the third inning this season, 43-8.
Miley was the winner after allowing five runs (three earned) on eight hits in six innings. The D-backs improved to 6-1 in the rookie's starts.
The Brewers were limited to two hits after the third inning and were hitless after the fifth.
"I think we still battled," Roenicke said.