Reeling D-backs lean on Greinke to end 4-game skid

Zack Greinke won't dig too deep to figure out exactly why he's throwing the ball better for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Looking to win a third straight start, Greinke tries to help the Diamondbacks avoid a fifth consecutive defeat Saturday night against the visiting San Diego Padres.

Since giving up 11 runs in 10 innings of his first two starts, Greinke (5-3, 4.59 ERA) has yielded two or fewer in five of eight outings.

"Maybe little adjustments, but probably just pitching better in general," Greinke told MLB's official website about his improvement. "Hopefully not being as predictable. Just mixing it up good and making better pitches."

The right-hander was hardly predictable Sunday while giving up a solo homer in eight innings of a 7-2 win at St. Louis.

"He was moving the ball around," manager Chip Hale said. "I know he had good sink on his ball."

Another of Greinke's better efforts came at San Diego (20-29) on April 15 when he allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings but received a no-decision in the 3-2 victory.

In 13 career starts against the Padres, Greinke is 6-1 with a 1.64 ERA.

The Diamondbacks (21-29) totaled 12 runs in Greinke's last two starts, but have managed 11 while losing four in a row since his most recent.

This outing comes a day after Arizona placed starters Shelby Miller (finger) and Rubby De La Rosa (elbow) on the disabled list. It also optioned relievers Evan Marshall and Andrew Chafin to Triple-A Reno and recalled right-handers Silvino Bracho, Dominic Leone and activated Josh Collmenter from the DL.

"No one likes a lot of change, but that's what happens in professional sports when you're not performing to where we're supposed to be," Hale said.

Leone, Collmenter and Bracho each saw action Friday, but couldn't help the Diamondbacks from falling 10-3 in this series opener. Since Greinke's gem against the Cardinals, Arizona starters have a 9.15 ERA in four games.

Robbie Ray was tagged for five runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings Friday, as San Diego snapped a four-game slide during which it totaled 10 runs.

Matt Kemp, who went 0 for 3 against ex-Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Greinke last month, homered for one of his three hits in the series opener. The home run was Kemp's 32nd against Arizona, the second-most among active players behind Adrian Gonzalez.

Teammate Yangervis Solarte hit a three-run homer and a solo shot. Three of Solarte's five hits in 13 at-bats over his last three games left the park. However, he is 2 for 13 against Greinke.

Cesar Vargas (0-2, 3.34) tries a seventh time for that elusive first career victory, but is coming off his longest outing last Saturday against the Dodgers. The right-hander allowed a two-run homer in his seventh and final inning and struck out seven in the 3-2, 11-inning win.

This will be Vargas' first appearance against the Diamondbacks.

This series marks the return to Arizona for Padres manager Andy Green, who spent seven seasons in the Diamondbacks organization as a player and four as a coach and manager in its system.

"It's always got a special place in my heart and always will," he said.