In big game, Greinke comes up small

Zack Greinke wanted to move on.

He didn’t want the question to linger any longer than it needed to.

Why do you think you haven’t pitched well in New York in your career?

“I have pitched well in New York, thank you,” Greinke replied. “Next.”

Regardless of whether the notion that Greinke could never make in the City That Never Sleeps because he has battled social anxiety disorder and depression in the past is true or not, the numbers don’t lie.

The former American League Cy Young award winner fell to 0-3 at Yankee Stadium and saw his career ERA in the Bronx jump to 11.29 after he was tagged for seven runs on five hits and pulled after the first two innings of what became a 12-2 Brewers’ blowout loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night. In 18 1/3 career innings against the Bombers in the Big Apple, Greinke has allowed 23 earned runs.

“It was a real bad game. I wasn’t executing anything, and when I did just a couple times, they took some good pitches and I wasn’t able to make another good pitch after that,” said Greinke, who had his shortest outing since April 16, 2007 when he was taken out after recording just two outs while he was with Kansas City. “I just couldn’t pitch any worse than I did. It’s no one’s fault but mine.”

Greinke, who is normally known for his pinpoint control, uncharacteristically walked three Yankees, hit another and threw a wild pitch.

“You have to be on your game against these guys, there’s no let up in their lineup,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “You can’t let at-bats get away from you and you can’t walk people. You gotta throw strikes at ‘em.”

On Tuesday night, Greinke’s outing began just the way it ended -- terribly.

He beamed leadoff man Brett Gardner. Curtis Granderson followed with a high fly ball to center that should’ve been handled by Nyjer Morgan, but he slipped trying to track it down, which allowed Gardner to score and Granderson to end up on third with his seventh triple of the season. Mark Teixeira plated Granderson with the first of his two RBI groundouts to second, putting New York up 2-0.

Greinke avoided further damage in the opening frame when he induced Russell Martin to pop to right, stranding the bases loaded. But he wasn’t as fortunate in the second.

Teixeira's second RBI groundout to second and Robinson Cano’s run-scoring single accounted for the first two runs in the inning, and Nick Swisher drilled a two-out, three-run home run off Greinke to give the Yankees a commanding 7-0 lead. Greinke survived to retire the side, but he was promptly sent to the showers afterward.

“I guess he thought I was pitching too badly to keep putting me out there, but I wanted to go back out,” Greinke said. “I felt I could get outs and make adjustments, but he took me out.”

The Brewers will need more from Greinke down the stretch -- especially against top-notch opponents like the Yankees -- if they have serious aspirations of winning the National League Central and making a deep playoff run.

“He’s a big-game pitcher, and if you’re facing an offense like the Yankees and you don’t make good pitches, you’re going to get hit hard,” Roenicke said.

Roenicke said Greinke has been able to overcome dismal first innings in the past. But this wasn’t one of those times, which has Roenicke concerned. After all, the Brewers didn’t trade the Royals a bevy of prospects for Greinke to have him pitch like this.

“I think it always concerns a manager when you’re expecting big things from a really big-game pitcher, and you have a game like this,” Roenicke said. “I expect Zack to pitch well against any offense, and when he’s throwing well, I know he can do well against any offense.”