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The Thursday Takeaway
Will the real Zack Greinke please stand up?

On April 7, in the Brewers’ second game of the season, Greinke dominated the Cardinals over seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and no walks, and striking out seven. Yesterday, facing the Cubs’ decidedly less potent offense, Greinke was torched for eight runs in 3 2/3 innings—including a disastrous third-inning hit parade that enabled Chicago to bat around for the first time this year.

Brewers fans grew accustomed to this Jekyll and Hyde act from Greinke in 2011. At Miller Park, he was flawless: 11-0 with a 3.13 ERA and 119 strikeouts compared to just 22 walks in 95 innings. On the road, he was erratic: 5-6 with a 4.70 ERA and a decidedly less impressive 82-to-23 K/BB in 76 2/3 innings.

It’s easy to write Greinke’s struggles yesterday afternoon off as a string of rotten luck. This two-run single by Alfonso Soriano seemed particularly fluky. But the truth is, many of the Cubs’ nine hits came on ill-placed pitches left up in the zone, and the Greinke we saw last Saturday was not the one we saw on Thursday.

Now 28 years old and approaching free agency, many expected Greinke to rediscover some of his brilliant 2009 form. I listed him atop my preseason NL Cy Young ballot predicting precisely that. But a season and change into his Brewers career, these road woes are becoming a legitimate concern—a question Greinke will have to answer either in the coming months or when he’s angling for nine-figure offers this winter. 

What to Watch for on Friday

  • Thursday’s wildest game was a 10-9 Twins victory over the Angels, during which Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau hit their first home runs of the season. It’s been a long road back for Mauer, who struggled with a variety of ailments in 2011, and Morneau, who has been plagued by post-concussion symptoms since July 2010. After electrifying the Target Field crowd yesterday afternoon, the duo will look to deliver an encore in this weekend’s series against the Rangers, which begins tonight at 8:10 p.m. ET.
  • Friday marks the Yankees’ home opener (1:05 p.m. ET), but fans may want to tune in a bit early to catch the pregame ceremony. The recently retired Jorge Posada will throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium, and his longtime battery-mate, Mariano Rivera, will trade places with him to catch it.
  • It’s also Opening Day at Fenway Park (2:05 p.m. ET), and the afternoon pitching matchup should help you cruise right through the last few hours of your work week. David Price has been tormenting the Red Sox since 2008, and he went 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA in five starts against Boston last year. Likewise, Josh Beckett saved his best for Tampa Bay in 2011, logging an incredible 19-to-1 K/BB and a 0.78 ERA over 23 innings. Something’s got to give.