Greinke had a season-high 13 strikeouts on a night when the Angels' staff tied a major league record with 20 in a nine-inning game, and Los Angeles got home runs from Torii Hunter and Erick Aybar in a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners that kept the Angels two games behind Oakland for the second AL wild card.
According to ESPN Stats, Greinke became the first pitcher in the live-ball era (since 1920) to strike out 13 batters in a start that lasted only five innings. Randy Johnson had 13 through his first five frames on July 4, 2001, for Arizona against Houston, but he threw one more inning.
''It was kind of fluky. I was trying to get ahead of guys and it just kind of worked out that way,'' Greinke said. ''I was just throwing strikes, and I had 27 pitches in the first inning because there were long at-bats. So there was really nothing I could do about it.
''The next couple of innings I was trying to get balls put in play so that I could get a little deeper into the game, but it wasn't happening that way,'' he added. ''I wasn't trying to get strikeouts, but I'm not complaining. I got a bunch of them early, but later on it was hard to go for a strikeout because there were guys in scoring position in a close game.''
Justin Smoak homered from both sides of the plate for the Mariners, a solo shot in the fourth against Greinke and a two-run drive off lefty Scott Downs during a three-run seventh that sliced the Angels' lead to 5-4.
Greinke (6-2) won his fifth straight decision over seven starts, allowing seven hits and escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth by fanning Eric Thames. The 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner came within two strikeouts of his career best, set Aug. 25, 2009, with Kansas City against Cleveland.
''I used to try to strike everyone out,'' said Greinke, who had a career-high 242 Ks in 2009 with the Royals and 201 two years later. ''But the No. 1 problem with it is that it just takes too much energy out of you sometimes and wears you down later in the game. Maybe that's what Mike was thinking.''
Greinke left after 110 pitches because of a pitch count set by manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher - which burned the Angels in each of the right-hander's previous two outings.
''Zack has the kind of stuff where he can strike out a lot of guys on any given day,'' Scioscia said. ''Those other games where he was into about 109-110 pitches, he was working hard to get there. And tonight he bounced back very well. I don't know if I've ever seen a guy throw so many pitches in five innings and be so successful. Usually when you do that, you're having a tough night. But he struck out 13 guys and had only one run on the board.''
Greinke's previous two outings both resulted in 109-pitch no-decisions. In the first one, he allowed one run in 8 1-3 innings at Kansas City before Frieri gave up the tying and go-ahead runs on homers. Last Thursday, Greinke gave up one run over eight innings against Texas before Frieri yielded a tiebreaking, two-run homer by Adrian Beltre.
''The last two games that I pitched when Zack pitched, I wasn't that good,'' Frieri said. ''But tonight I said: 'That won't happen this time. I've got to do my best this time.' I went out there and threw quality strikes. That's what I need to do every time - hit my spots. Before, I was leaving the ball in the middle of the plate against good hitters and they didn't miss them.''
In all, Greinke has 16 wins this season, tying his career high. The nine-year veteran has a 3.40 ERA in 12 starts since joining the Angels in a trade with Milwaukee on July 27. He was 9-2 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 starts for the Brewers.
''Greinke's got good stuff, so we knew coming in tonight that we had to go out there swinging in every at-bat,'' Smoak said. ''We had some good at-bats against him, but we couldn't put that ball in play with two strikes. When a guy throws stuff like that, you just go up there and battle. And he definitely won most of those battles.''
Garrett Richards relieved Greinke and struck out the side in the sixth before giving way to Downs. Kevin Jepsen threw 1 1-3 scoreless innings, and Frieri redeemed himself with a perfect ninth for his 22nd save in 24 chances.
The Angels scored a pair of unearned runs in the first after third baseman Kyle Seager booted a routine grounder by leadoff hitter Mike Trout. Albert Pujols hit an RBI single and Alberto Callaspo had a sacrifice fly. The Mariners came in with the best fielding percentage in the majors, one point higher than the White Sox.
Hunter made it 4-1 in the fifth with his 16th homer after a single by Trout. Aybar added his eighth of the season in the sixth.
Erasmo Ramirez (1-3) was charged with five runs - three earned - and seven hits over six innings in his seventh major league start.
Smoak accounted for Seattle's first run with a drive that barely cleared the 18-foot wall in right field. Scioscia thought there was fan interference on the play and asked second base umpire Lance Barksdale to look at it on replay with a couple of his partners, which they did.
Franklin Gutierrez's RBI double in the seventh preceded Smoak's two-out homer, ending a stretch in which the Mariners were 1 for 47 with runners in scoring position - including an 18-inning home loss to Baltimore when they were 0 for 17 in those situations.
NOTES: Angels backup catcher Bobby Wilson, a teammate of Greinke's when they played AAU ball in Florida, has caught him only once since they were reunited with Los Angeles. That was on Aug. 19, when Greinke gave up six runs over six innings in an 8-3 loss to Toronto. He hasn't lost since. ... Seattle OF Michael Saunders was in Castle Rock, Colo., for the birth of his daughter, after flying out of Seattle following Sunday's game. ... Trout scored two runs, increasing his major league-leading total to 124 and tying the Angels record that Vladimir Guerrero set in 2004.
- Zack Greinke
- Ernesto Frieri
- Seattle Mariners