Greinke pitching better than he did in 2009

LOS ANGELES -- To understand just how well Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke has pitched lately, turn the calendar back to 2009, when he won the American League Cy Young Award with the Kansas City Royals.

Greinke went 16-8 with a major league-leading 2.16 ERA that season, beating out Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez for the honors.

Greinke said he’s pitching even better lately.

Few could argue after watching Greinke breeze through seven innings Sunday against the San Diego Padres, allowing one run and two hits while striking out seven in the 2-1 victory.

Greinke won his sixth consecutive decision to improve to 14-3 and trimmed his ERA to 2.78. It marked the fourth time this season that he has allowed two hits or less while working at least seven innings.

Greinke was asked after the game if he’s pitching better than he did in 2009. When it comes to throwing the ball where he wants, definitely, he said.

“It’s probably the best location I’ve had for a long period of time,” he said.

Greinke began Sunday’s game by breaking the bat of leadoff hitter Will Venable. He then broke Alexi Amarista’s bat on a groundout to second. He retired the first seven hitters before experiencing his only hiccup, giving up two walks and an RBI single in the third inning.

Greinke then regrouped and retired 13 of the next 14 batters.

“He got off to a good start, kind of got off the rails a little bit, and then the way he finished was outstanding,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. “He’s just a great competitor who is really good at making adjustments on the fly and today was a great testament.”

The Dodgers have scored two runs or less in six of their past nine games, but still increased their lead in the National League West to 11½ games. Ellis said all the credit goes to the pitching staff.

“We’ve been a little slow moving as an offense, waiting around a little too much as of late,” he said. “Hopefully, we can get some runs on the board earlier in the game and start creating separation. If this is the formula right now, we’ll keep rolling with it.”

Next stop is Denver, where the Dodgers open a three-game series beginning Monday against the Colorado Rockies.