MILWAUKEE (AP) — A year ago, the Milwaukee Brewers had to get by without Zack Greinke or Corey Hart early in the season because of injuries. The importance of having both players healthy right away certainly showed on Saturday.
Hart homered twice, Greinke pitched four-hit ball for seven innings and the Brewers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0.
“It makes a difference,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “Last year, we didn’t have those two guys together for quite a while.”
Rickie Weeks homered while Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Gomez added RBI doubles for the Brewers, who rebounded after dropping Friday’s opener. Ryan Braun had a pair of doubles and drew a walk after going 0 for 5 on Friday.
Greinke (1-0) continued the dominant form he showed at Miller Park all last season. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out seven.
“That’s as good as it gets,” Roenicke said. “That’s what we saw in spring training.”
Greinke started last season on the disabled list after fracturing a rib in a pickup basketball game, and acknowledged that it took him a while to find his form. After a full spring training, that doesn’t appear to be a problem this year.
Greinke’s strong outing overshadowed the long-awaited return to the mound for the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, who missed all of the 2011 season after having elbow surgery.
Wainwright (0-1) went 5 2-3 innings, giving up four hits and three runs with a walk and six strikeouts. It was his first regular-season start since Sept. 24, 2010, a span of 563 days.
“There’s ways to be more efficient out there, especially today,” Wainwright said. “You never wan to fall behind as many times as I did early on today. Really nothing besides Corey Hart, nothing really hurt me, but that’s a bad habit to get into.”
Hart led off the second with a monster home run, so deep that left fielder Matt Holliday didn’t even move when the ball came off the bat.
Not bad for a guy who had surgery on his right knee a month ago. “The trainers gave me a lot to do, and I did it,” Hart said.
“I didn’t want to back down from anything. I told them to kind of push me to see if I could, because I wanted to be here.”
Wainwright settled down until the sixth, when he allowed a leadoff single to Weeks, then committed a throwing error that allowed Nyjer Morgan to reach first on a sacrifice bunt attempt. Wainwright then got Ryan Braun to hit into a double play, sending Weeks to third. Ramirez doubled off the wall in left-center field, scoring Weeks to give the Brewers a 2-0 lead.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny lifted Wainwright in favor of Victor Marte, and Hart pounced on a pitch for a two-run homer to center and a 4-0 lead. It was the 12th multi-homer game of Hart’s career.
“I think it was big for us to come back today and show that we’re still a good team, and I think we did that,” Hart said.
“Tomorrow will be the rubber match, but I think they know going forward, and we know going forward, they’re a good team and we’re a good team and it’s going to be a battle all year.”
Greinke was lifted after seven. Francisco Rodriguez pitched a scoreless eighth and Jose Veras closed out the ninth for Milwaukee. Roenicke said he had “no thoughts” about letting Greinke go for a complete game so early in the season.
Greinke noted that the back end of the Brewers’ bullpen is so good with Rodriguez and closer John Axford that complete-game chances could be hard to come by.
“It’s going to be tough to get to eight all year,” Greinke said.
Greinke was unbeatable at home for the Brewrs last season, going 11-0 with a 3.13 ERA in 15 home starts during the regular season, and getting a win in the playoffs.
Greinke can become a free agent at the end of the season, making his future a critical question for the Brewers. General manager Doug Melvin said Friday that he and Greinke’s agent, Casey Close, discussed a potential new deal.
“If he does this for us this year, all this year, he is going to have some kind of year,” Roenicke said.
NOTES: Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker was back on the air Saturday, one day after the death of his son, Steve. Weeks originally was charged with an error in the fifth when a ball off the bat of Jon Jay glanced off his glove. The play later was changed to a base hit.