ST. LOUIS (AP) — Zack Greinke is getting tripped up by first innings.
The Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander allowed the first four St. Louis hitters to reach base and score in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday, which gave him losses in consecutive regular-season starts for the first time in nearly four years.
"It feels like the last two months, the first inning is always the toughest," Greinke said. "I need to find a way to be better right from the get-go."
Greinke has a 2.90 ERA and .257 opponents' batting this year but has struggled in first innings, when his ERA is 5.90 ERA and batters are hitting .306 against him, according to STATS. He gave up two first-inning runs in a 4-1 loss to Detroit in his previous outing July 9.
Greinke (11-6) walked a season-high five on Saturday and gave up four runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings. He lost back-to-back regular-season starts for the first time since Sept. 20 and 25, 2010 for Kansas City at Detroit and Cleveland. He did lose his regular-season finale against Colorado last season and was beaten by Atlanta in his first post-season start.
Coming off a perfect inning in the All-Star game, Greinke allowed four runs during his first 16 pitches. He did not allow a hit over the next three innings but was removed with two out and two on in the sixth.
"Overall, it's a bad game if you make that many mistakes," he said. "Especially back-to-back-to-back like that."
Los Angeles has scored just 12 runs in its last seven games and has three runs in Greinke's last two starts.
"Right now, I don't think anyone is hot-hot," he said. "And that makes it tougher. It definitely helps to have someone come up that's going to get the job done every time."
Joe Kelly (2-1) gave up four hits over seven innings in his second outing since a three-month stint on the disabled list caused by a strained left hamstring. He retired his last 13 batters as the Cardinals won for the eighth time in 10 games.
Kelly didn't get a decision on July 11, when he gave up six runs over three innings during the Cardinals' 7-6 win at Milwaukee. He induced 12 groundouts and got out of trouble with double plays in each of the first two innings.
Los Angeles first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said Kelly had great pitch location.
"He didn't throw any balls in the middle of the plate," he said. "He kept throwing his fastballs right on the corner. There weren't any pitches to drive."