By Guy Curtright
The Brewers were hoping to get a needed jump-start from the belated debut of big winter acquisition Zack Greinke.
Instead, Milwaukee continued its sputtering start to its promising season.
The former American League Cy Young Award winner gave up five runs (four earned) and lasted just four innings, as the Braves completed a doubleheader sweep with an 8-0 victory on Wednesday night behind a masterful one-hitter by Tim Hudson.
The Brewers’ lone hit was a long double to center field by Rickie Weeks leading off the fourth inning, and they didn’t get their second and final baserunner until Weeks walked on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth.
“With the way Hudson was pitching, it wouldn’t have mattered,” Greinke said when addressing his up-and-down debut performance.
The Brewers, who fell in the first game, 8-3, have lost five in a row, dropping their record to 13-17. That’s hardly the kind of start the team was hoping for after obtaining Greinke from the Royals in a blockbuster trade.
“I didn’t expect him to go out there and throw all zeros,” said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke of Greinke. “It’s nice to have him back. He is going to compete. But I don’t think it’s fair to think he’s going to go out and be the same guy [right away] that we’ve seen the last few years.”
Greinke, who suffered a cracked rib in a pickup basketball game at the beginning of Spring Training, didn’t get any help from his defense in his Brewers debut and was far from top form after just three Minor League rehab starts.
“For the most part, I pitched decent,” Greinke said. “I had a couple of really bad at-bats, and in the end, it made it look worse.”
Already behind, 2-0, Greinke allowed back-to-back doubles to David Ross and Eric Hinske to start the fourth inning, and Nate McLouth followed with a two-run homer on a 2-0 pitch. Hinske hit a hanging slider, and the pitch to McLouth badly missed its intended location.
Greinke worked around the Brewers’ third error to get out of the inning with no more damage, but departed after throwing 86 pitches in four innings. He allowed five hits, walked one and struck out six.
“He wasn’t throwing pitches where he could put away guys, which got him in huge trouble with the pitch count,” Roenicke said.
The Brewers’ defense betrayed Greinke in the first inning, committing two errors. With one out, first baseman Prince Fielder botched a grounder and then Wil Nieves was charged with an error for catcher’s interference. Dan Uggla followed with an RBI single after fouling off several pitches, and the Braves had a quick lead thanks to an unearned run.
Greinke needed 32 pitches to get through the first inning, and the Braves got another run in the second. McLouth walked with one out, moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Hudson and scored on a two-out single by Martin Prado.
The right-hander retired the side in order in the third inning, striking out two. But then came his rough fourth and final inning.
Meanwhile, Hudson (4-2) was dispatching the Brewers with ease. He threw first-pitch strikes to 26 of the 29 batters he faced and had six strikeouts while throwing 102 pitches in his 12th career shutout.
“All in all, I can’t remember the last time a game for me was this nice,” Hudson said.
“This is what I used to see way back when he was in Oakland,” said Roenicke, a former AL coach. “He threw a tremendous game.”
There is nothing even close to tremendous about the way the Brewers are playing right now. Quite the opposite.
“Nothing seemed to go right,” Roenicke said about the second game of the doubleheader.
But the same could basically have been said about the first game, as well.
“I’m not in panic mode or anything,” general manager Doug Melvin said between games. “I still think we have a good team.”
But Melvin was the first to admit, “We need some victories.”
Greinke’s second start will be Monday at home against the Padres. The Brewers hope to be back on track before then.