As Zack Greinke was asked about a career-long scoreless streak that reached 27 2/3 innings Saturday in the Dodgers' 4-3 victory over the New York Mets, he thought back to the last time he did something similar.
That was six years ago. Pitching for the Kansas City Royals in what was a considerably higher-scoring environment, he started the season with a 24-inning scoreless streak. He was rewarded with a Cy Young Award at the end of the year.
"I was probably a little nastier," he said.
The high-90s fastball that he could uncork back then is something of the past. That hasn't made him any less effective.
By pitching seven innings against the Mets, Greinke lowered his earned-run average to 1.48, the lowest in the major leagues. He improved to 7-2.
The dominance is a result of his preparation, Manager Don Mattingly said.
"He knows exactly where he wants to go with every guy," Mattingly said.
In that regard, Mattingly compared Greinke to Clayton Kershaw.
"Him and Clayton probably are the top guys as far as knowing what they want to do with every guy," Mattingly said.
Like Kershaw, Greinke has been victimized this season by a lack of run support. Greinke ended a nine-start winless streak in his previous start.
That problem didn't present itself Saturday.
Jimmy Rollins' run-scoring groundout in the second inning moved the Dodgers in front, 1-0.
A home run by Adrian Gonzalez and a run-scoring single by Alberto Callaspo in the fifth inning increased the lead to 3-0.
Callaspo added an insurance run in the seventh inning when he singled to center field to drive in Grandal.
Meanwhile, Greinke cruised.
He gave up only four hits and one walk.
He struck out only four batters, which he said was a credit to the Mets' collective approach at the plate.
"This team doesn't ever chase the stuff I want them to," Greinke said. "Last year, they did a really good job on that. This year is the same thing. I have to stay in the strike zone. It's hard to strike guys out when you have to stay in the strike zone."
On this day, the threat to Greinke's victory came from the bullpen.
Greinke departed the game with a 4-0 lead, only for Yimi Garcia, Adam Liberatore and Pedro Baez to combine to give up two runs in the eighth inning.
With closer Kenley Jansen unavailable — Jansen pitched in three of the previous four days — Baez returned to the mound for the ninth inning.
Baez was charged with another run, which reduced the Dodgers' edge to 4-3.
There were two outs and a man on first base when Mattingly called on left-hander J.P. Howell to record the final out of the game.
Greinke said he was confident Howell would preserve the victory.
"It seems like the tougher the situation, the better he does," he said.
Greinke was right. Howell struck out Curtis Granderson to end the game.
In the wake of the victory, Greinke said he wasn't mindful of his scoreless streak, which has spanned his last four starts.
"I don't really think about it," Greinke said. "I had a good one in Kansas City. I thought it was cool then, but now I don't pay attention to it."
"I guess I just don't think about the past or the future," he said.
Asked whether he had any particular desire to start for the National League in the All-Star game, Greinke replied, "No."
Did he think he deserved to?
"I don't think about it," he said.
Because it's in the future?
"Exactly," he said, smiling.