Greinke, working on a week's rest, went six-plus innings, making 110 pitches and striking out six. The only run he allowed was unearned. It was Greinke's 18th consecutive regular-season start of five or more innings allowing two runs or fewer, the most since 1914. His ERA is 2.04.
For the fourth time this year (a trend?), Greinke's catcher was Drew Butera. The tandem has some history too. Growing up in Florida, Greinke and Butera were teammates on youth travel ball teams and opponents in high school.
Butera, playing with the added intrigue of coming to the Dodgers from the Twins last year, had two hits and scored the first run in this game against his old club. Juan Uribe singled in two runs, while Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier drove in single runs.
The only bad news for the Dodgers was using Kenley Jansen for a save when they took a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Three runs were charged to Paco Rodriguez, recalled the previous night from Triple-A, while two of those scored on a Trevor Plouffe double off Jansen.
"I would have rather not got Kenley up," said manager Don Mattingly, "but it is what it is."
Key at-bats in the game included a fifth-inning strikeout by Greinke of Joe Mauer in the fifth with a runner on second base, and Chris Withrow inheriting a bases-loaded jam with two outs from J.P. Howell in the seventh, going 3-0 to Plouffe, who popped up the next pitch.
"It was a chance for him getting into a fastball situation and that's what we wanted to see," said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire. "It was probably a few inches too high, but he tried to get on top of it. I'd like to see him swing at one a little bit lower, but I'm happy he took a swing on it. In that situation, that's what he needs to do for us."
Butera, catching only hours after Tim Federowicz was sent to the Minor Leagues, said he wasn't surprised Plouffe had the green light and disagreed that the pitch was out of the strike zone. He said even when Withrow fell behind, 3-0, he didn't want his pitcher giving in.
"Chris has good enough stuff that, even though Plouffe is one of their main RBI guys, I just wanted him to throw a strike and get him out," said Butera. "I didn't want to walk him."
Greinke got Mauer on a changeup, which he said has been his best pitch nearly every start this year. Greinke said he was "a little nastier" during his 2009 Cy Young season, but his location is better and he's "smarter" now.
He credited defensive plays by second baseman Dee Gordon in the second and Carl Crawford in the fifth with keeping the game close.
"A lot of times, it's the plays you don't expect," he said. "When the defense makes plays it shouldn't make, those really are the plays of the game."
Butera said the weather conditions were responsible for lack of velocity from all pitchers, not just Greinke, but he said Greinke's deception made up for it.
"He still throws hard," said Butera. "The hitters are having a hard time picking it up. The radar gun might say one thing, but the ball is getting there like it's 93 or 94 [mph]. There's deception in his delivery. And every pitch has a purpose."
Shortstop Hanley Ramirez caught Sam Fuld's popup in short left field. But Eduardo Escobar doubled home Pinto for the unearned run. The drive rebounded off the fence and over the head of right fielder Yasiel Puig, but center fielder Matt Kemp backed up the play and threw perfectly to nail Escobar at third base.
Butera got the run back with his offense. He led off the top of the third with a single to left and took second on Crawford's groundout. With two out, Puig walked and Ramirez followed with a single to left.
Jason Kubel's throw home appeared to beat Butera, but the Dodgers' runner got his left hand onto the plate under the tag of Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki, and a replay review confirmed the safe call of plate umpire Chris Segal.