And Zack Greinke didn't just pitch the Dodgers to a 5-2 win over the Phillies, he walked to set up a tiebreaking run in the fifth and doubled before scoring an insurance run in the seventh as the Dodgers pulled away late in an errorless victory. Kenley Jansen got his eighth save, pitching for the fourth time in the last five days.
Greinke struck out 11 while scattering five hits in seven-plus innings. He's off to a 4-0 start to the season with a 2.45 ERA while extending his streak to 17 starts of at least five innings without allowing more than two runs. It was his first game with 10 or more strikeouts since joining the Dodgers.
"What I really try to do," said Greinke, "is try not to have a bad game, and it's been working for a while."
Sounds simple enough. Here's Greinke offering another pitching tip. The Dodgers got him a second-inning run on a Kemp double, Van Slyke single and Juan Uribe sacrifice fly. Then Jimmy Rollins led off the fourth inning for the Phillies with a double. He was singled home by Ryan Howard.
"I didn't try to keep him [Rollins] from scoring," explained Greinke. "As long as you limit it to one run, it's not that big a deal. That's the mindset and it's been working."
And here's his explanation for a sudden surge in strikeouts, with 40 in 29 1/3 innings.
"I have no idea how that's happening," he said. "I'm not even trying to. I'm throwing slower, and for some reason, some games I'm getting them looking and some games swinging. I'm sure it will come down."
Mattingly said what separates Greinke is that "the times he doesn't have really good stuff, he finds a way to compete and do what it takes to win. I think he's unique in that way."
The Dodgers took the lead in the fifth on the first of two singles by Drew Butera, catching his third Greinke start; a walk by Greinke; and Puig's triple off the right-field wall on the first pitch.
"You can't walk the pitcher," said losing pitcher Cole Hamels, who made his first start of the season after returning from a biceps injury. "I understand Greinke is a good hitter, but you have to let him hit his way on. You can never walk the pitcher. And that decided the ballgame. It set up what transpired over the next inning and not being able to -- it racked up the pitch count."
Hamels was just as hard on himself for giving Puig a hittable first-pitch fastball.
"Yeah, that was not being smart," Hamels said. "He was swinging from the very first pitch, since, shoot, last week. I threw a strike, and he hit it in a hole. Sometimes you have to be a little bit more intelligent to the fact that he's going to be aggressive here and not throw a pitch on the inner half, and toward the corner more."
The Dodgers scored three runs in their last two at-bats: Greinke doubling with two out in the seventh, followed by Puig's triple; Ramirez's blast leading off the eighth; then a Van Slyke double and an RBI single by Justin Turner.
Only the night before, Greinke was presented the Silver Slugger Award as last year's best-hitting pitcher.
"Tonight, it was pretty big," he said of his offense. "But I came in focused on pitching. When I do start to think about hitting, it messes with my pitching. Today it didn't cross my mind getting on base and I ended up with big at-bats. But I start pitching worse when I think too much about hitting."
Thinking about hitting is something Ramirez has been doing lately. He was 1-for-15 after getting hit on the back of the hand by a pitch in San Francisco, but he insisted even after his home run that it wasn't pain contributing to his slump as much as sitting out a game. He said he felt something click when he lined out in the eighth inning Monday night.
"It's unbelievable how you can feel it on one swing or one at-bat," said Ramirez. "And it's unbelievable that you can lose it just as fast. Hitting is about timing. But you don't give up, you keep playing hard because you respect the team and your teammates and our fans."
Meanwhile, Van Slyke is quietly becoming indispensable against left-handed pitching. He's batting .308 overall and 8-for-18 (.444) against lefties, starting this game at first base to rest Adrian Gonzalez.