PHOENIX -- The D-backs did not get a win Saturday as a pair of Charlie Blackmon homers lifted the Rockies past them, 2-1, but they did come away with something that is more valuable for the next six months -- Zack Greinke is still pitching like an ace.
Greinke, who struggled with a groin injury midway through March that delayed his readiness for Opening Day, saw his velocity drop during the spring. That prompted concerns about the 34-year-old's ability to repeat the success he experienced in 2017.
A lot of those questions were put to rest when he handcuffed a talented Rockies lineup holding them to just five hits over 5 2/3 innings. Greinke struck out nine and did not walk a batter and the lone damage done against him was a solo homer by Blackmon to start the sixth.
"Exceptional," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said of Greinke's outing. "I know that he is always working, tinkering, applying concepts, scouting reports, pitching to weaknesses, and he does it as good as anybody. It's one of those nights where you just feel like you put a lot into it on the mound and you don't have a lot to show for it. Unfortunately, Zack came up on the short end of that."
Greinke threw 83 pitches and the average velocity on his fastball was a respectable 91 mph; he topped out at 93 mph.
"Similar to the last Spring Training game, mixing it up, locating," Greinke said about the key to his success. "Did all right. Just made a couple of mistakes, but the one that hurt the most, obviously, was the one to Blackmon, a first-pitch curveball."
The curve was the first breaking ball that he had thrown to Blackmon all night long and Greinke did not expect him to jump on it like he did.
"I think execution is No. 1," Greinke said. "He's pretty patient first pitch, but he doesn't necessarily give up on the first-pitch curve. If you locate a little better, it's probably going to be OK. It was just a bad location. You've just got to hope he takes it, I guess, with where the location was."
Greinke did not get much support from his offense, which struggled to solve Rockies pitcher German Marquez and a quartet of relievers.
The D-backs did have their opportunities, but went hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position and David Peralta got picked off after leading off the fifth with a walk.
"If you were going to tell me that we were going to hold the Rockies to two runs before the game, I would've thought we had a really good chance of winning," Lovullo said. "But give their pitchers some credit."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
No turning two: With one out in the fourth and Daniel Descalso at first, the speedy Jarrod Dyson hit a high chopper toward short. Trevor Story tried to play the ball on the short hop in hopes of turning a double play. Instead the ball scooted under his glove for an error and one batter later, the Rockies once again were unable to turn a double play with Nick Ahmed beating the relay throw to first, which allowed Descalso to score to give the D-backs a 1-0 lead.
Decisions decisions: D-backs right-hander Salas set the Rockies down in order in the seventh and after retiring pinch-hitter Pat Valaika to start the eighth, Lovullo elected to leave Salas in the game to face Blackmon, who blasted an 0-1 fastball over the wall in right to provide the Rockies with the margin of victory.
After using right-handers Yoshihisa Hirano and Archie Bradley in the first two games of the season, Lovullo was limited in righties he had available in the 'pen. So he stuck with Salas to face Blackmon because right-handed hitters DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado were up next.
"I felt like Salas was going to be able to get through that thick part of the lineup and we need a right-handed pitcher to pitch to those two right-handed guys," Lovullo said. "We needed to keep the ball in the ballpark and unfortunately it didn't happen."
After getting a rare Sunday off, the D-backs open a three-game series Monday night against the Dodgers at Chase Field. Taijuan Walker will get the start for the D-backs. The last time he faced the Dodgers was in Game 1 of last year's NL Division Series and he allowed four runs in lasting just one inning.
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