Rangers, Angels had top scouts watching Greinke

The most critical stretch of the Brewers’ season began Friday with scouts from the Rangers, Angels and Dodgers in the seats and Zack Greinke on the mound — No. 13 pitching on Friday the 13th, a night that was supposed to showcase a free-agent-to-be whose fate is most closely tied to the team’s success over these next nine games.

Instead, the hitters stole the show, and for Brewers fans in fear of a summer sell-off, that was just fine.

All-Star slugger Ryan Braun had four hits including a pair of home runs, and shortstop Cody Ransom delivered a two-strike, two-out grand slam in the eighth inning for a 10-7 win over the Pirates that marked a solid start to a nine-game, intra-division stretch that could determine whether Greinke is still wearing a Brewers uniform after 4 p.m. CT on July 31 — the nonwaiver Trade Deadline.

“We recognize the important significance of these games; there’s no reason to pretend they’re less important than that are,” said Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun, who had four hits and two home runs. “We understand that these next nine games will dictate which way the rest of our season goes.”

At the start, Greinke was the star attraction. Rangers special assistant Scott Littlefield and Angels special assignment scout Larry Corrigan were among the baseball men who happened to be in attendance to see Greinke start the Brewers’ third straight game, the first pitcher to turn that trick in a single season since “Red” Faber for the 1917 White Sox.

Greinke and the Brewers began a stretch of nine games that could nudge Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin in a certain direction. The Brewers play the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds, the three teams they currently trail in the National League Central.

It’s not exactly a situation conducive to playing relaxed baseball.

“No, it’s not,” manager Ron Roenicke conceded before the game.

But…

“But, their side knows how important these games are for them,” Roenicke said, pointing toward the visitor’s clubhouse and the first-place Pirates, “and we know how important they are for us, so I don’t think there’s any difference in how you go about it. We were in a position last year where we should be used to fighting for something.”

In all, Greinke was charged with six runs, five earned, in five innings on Friday, and Pittsburgh climbed back from an early 3-0 deficit to take leads of 5-3 and 6-4 against him.

“I didn’t pitch perfect, by any means, but I would take that at least over 50 percent of the time, pitching like that,” Greinke said. “They capitalized on all of their opportunities, but in the end of things, we did the same to them.”

His ERA went from 3.08 to 3.57 during his run of three starts in as many team games. Someday, Greinke said, he will look back with fondness on his rare achievement.

“I wish the three games went better on my part, but we won two out of three,” Greinke said. “So I guess you can’t be too upset about that. It was pretty neat, even though I [stunk] for the most part. Right now, it doesn’t feel as good as it will five years from now.”

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