Greinke sharper in Brewers win over Padres

Zack Greinke rarely notices the size of the crowds. Yet, even he was impressed at how well he was received at his hyped home debut for the Brewers.

Greinke struck out nine over six effective innings with 27,058 fans waving white rally towels with his number on it and Rickie Weeks homered, lifting Milwaukee to a 4-3 victory over the San Diego Padres on Monday night.

“It was really good,” Greinke said. “Having them out there tonight was actually real nice and got me a little extra excited, especially early on in the game. It was great, I was real impressed.”

Greinke (1-1) bounced back from a disappointing start Wednesday for his first win with the Brewers by allowing five hits to the struggling Padres, who are hitting a major league-worst .216.

Milwaukee’s bullpen held on, thanks to a key double play turned by shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and Weeks in the eighth.

“It was one of the best plays ever had behind me,” reliever Kameron Loe said. “Hats off to them. It was awesome.”

Weeks also drove in a run with a single in the second inning and then homered in the fifth off Padres starter Mat Latos (0-5) that handed the right-hander his 10th loss in his last 10 decisions.

It was an uplifting win for the Brewers, who were coming off a miserable 2-8 road trip that saw them hit 6 of 58 with runners in scoring position, but it wasn’t easy.

Leading 4-2, Loe put runners on the corners with no outs in the eighth before the defensive play of the night.

Betancourt snagged Jason Bartlett’s grounder deep up the middle and flipped a behind-the-back toss out of his glove to Weeks at second, who barehanded the ball and completed the double play while a run scored to make it 4-3.

“His hands are fantastic,” Greinke said of Betancourt. “It definitely wasn’t surprising to see that play.”

The effort drew more oohs and ahhs from the crowd when a replay was shown after the inning, and cameras caught Betancourt and Weeks smiling and watching it again in the dugout.

“That was the only way we were going to get a double play,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “When you’re on the other side, you’re saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ I know I said it.”

Prince Fielder wasn’t sure what happened as he watched it, and couldn’t send the ball back around the infield because Weeks wasn’t ready.

“He was still high-fiving,” Fielder said.

John Axford worked around a one-out single in the ninth for his sixth save.

The Brewers acquired Greinke and Betancourt as part of a six-player deal with Kansas City in December. Greinke missed the first month of the season and almost all of spring training after cracking a rib playing basketball.

In his first start in Atlanta, he gave up five runs in four innings of an 8-0 loss, looking little like the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner. This outing was different as Greinke never dealt with serious trouble beyond back-to-back hits to start the sixth.

“I just try to do what I can do,” Greinke said.

Latos snapped a nine-start losing streak when the bullpen blew his chance at a win in his last outing for a no decision. He’s been foiled by a lack of run support throughout this ugly skid, receiving two runs or fewer in eight of those games, including Monday night.

“It’s one of those things where the games he’s pitched in have been close, like a lot of our starters,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “If we happen to score some runs, you’d say, ‘Hey, Latos, good job.’ But that’s not the way it is. It’s not what’s happening right now for him. He’s pitching in low scoring games.”

Milwaukee took a 2-0 lead off a wild pitch by Latos in the first and three consecutive singles in the second, capped by Weeks’ run-scoring hit.

San Diego cut it to 2-1 on Chase Headley’s double. Weeks homered, but the Padres got back within a run the next inning on Bartlett’s broken-bat, RBI single.

Greinke was sharp, striking out at least one batter in every inning, including Will Venable to start the game and freezing Brad Hawpe looking with a 93 mph fastball to end the sixth.

Greinke left for a pinch hitter in the sixth after consecutive two-out doubles by Corey Hart and Jonathan Lucroy chased Latos and gave the Brewers a 4-2 lead.

“It’s a huge win, especially for what’s been happening with us and the road trip. To come back here and I think everybody had a good feeling, so for Zack to come out and throw the type of game he did, give our offense a chance to score a few runs,” Roenicke said. “It’s huge. You never know what game it’s going to take to get on the right track.”

NOTES: Fielder and Headley both turned 27 on Monday. Fielder’s two children brought a birthday cake into the clubhouse postgame. … Brewers INF-OF Erick Almonte (concussion) returned to physical activity on Monday after becoming the first major leaguer on the new seven-day disabled list for concussions. … Padres 2B Orlando Hudson (right hamstring) and C Nick Hundley (right oblique) are traveling with the team even though neither are eligible to return from the 15-day DL on this eight-game road trip.