LOS ANGELES -- Zack Greinke continued his run suppression mastery, and was backed by the September wrecking crew in the Dodgers' 6-2 win over the Pirates in the opener of a weekend series on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
The win, coupled with a home loss by the Giants to Arizona, widened the Dodgers' lead in the National League West to 8½ games, and lowered the club's magic number to eight to clinch the division.
Greinke needed 21 pitches to get out of the first inning but stranded a pair of runners, including Andrew McCutchen who doubled, to keep the game scoreless.
Greinke didn't strikeout a batter until the fifth inning, and allowed a home run in the fourth, just his 13th allowed all year. But once he got into a groove he stayed there. After the home run in the fourth inning, Greinke retired 11 straight batters to get through the seventh.
He pitched to two batters in the eighth, allowing a single to Chris Stewart and a walk to old friend Michael Morse before Luis Avilan entered in relief with a 6-1 lead.
Avilan struck out the left-handed Gregory Polanco, but Chris Hatcher allowed an RBI single to Starling Marte, bringing home one of the inherited runners. That was the only inherited run to score in the inning, not bad given that it was the heart of the Pirates' order and on average the situation that Greinke left (runners on first and second, no outs) yields 1.44 runs, per Baseball Prospectus.
With the two runs charged to Greinke's ledger, his MLB-best ERA rose from 1.61 to 1.65. It was just the 10th time in 30 starts he allowed more than one run.
"I thought he was going to get through the inning. He was cruising," manager Don Mattingly said. "Zack gave us a great outing."
Greinke even had two hits at the plate, including a double over the head of McCutchen to center field in the seventh inning.
In pitching seven innings, Greinke lasted at least six innings for the 30th time in 30 starts this season, the first pitcher in baseball to open with at least 30 games of six or more innings since Justin Verlander in 2011, with 34 straight. It was also Greinke's 28th quality start, most in the majors.
The Dodgers backed Greinke with a pair of early runs, both involving Justin Ruggiano and poor Pirates throws. Ruggiano opened the game with a single against Jeff Locke, then advanced to second when Chase Utley was hit by a pitch. A double steal attempt might have been thwarted had Stewart thrown anywhere close to third, but his throw went into left field, allowing Ruggiano to score.
In the second inning, Joc Pederson singled and was sacrificed to second base. Then Ruggiano singled to left field, and Marte made a strong throw home that would have been something with any sort of accuracy. But the throw was well up the first base line, allowing Pederson to score easily for a 2-0 lead.
After catcher A.J. Ellis opened the fourth with a leadoff single, Corey Seager launched one into the right field pavilion for his second home run, and his first at Dodger Stadium, widening the Dodgers' advantage to 4-1.
Helped by Greinke's double in the seventh, the Dodgers loaded the bases, and Adrian Gonzalez widened the lead with a two-run double.
Greinke didn't allow a run until Neil Walker homered in the fourth inning, extending his latest scoreless streak to 12 innings. It is the seventh different streak for Greinke this season of at least 10 innings without giving up a run. His scoreless innings streaks, ranked by innings: 45⅔, 14⅓, 13, 12⅔, 12, 12 and 11.
Home runs: Corey Seager (2); Neil Walker (14)
WP - Zack Greinke (18-3): 7+ IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
LP - Jeff Locke (8-11): 6⅓ IP, 8 hits, 5 runs (4 earned), 2 walks, 4 strikeouts