MILWAUKEE -- With four good pitches in his arsenal, Zack Greinke has rounded into the form the Brewers expected when they traded four of their top young players for him during the offseason.
Greinke gave up only two runs on six hits in 7 2/3 innings, leading the Brewers to a 7-2 victory over the Pirates on Friday night at Miller Park.
"With Zack, we were all expecting him to be this guy he was a couple of years ago," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said of Greinke's Cy Young season in 2009 with Kansas City. "I don't know if he'll ever get to that point where he has that full season, but that outing tonight, that was really good stuff.
"I was really happy with how relaxed he was, and how the ball was coming out."
Greinke certainly has relaxed and taken a liking to Miller Park. He is 8-0 with a 3.36 ERA in 10 outings at home versus a 3-4 mark with a 5.01 ERA in nine road starts.
"We play pretty good at home, I don't know why," Greinke said. "You feel a little more comfortable at home, but there shouldn't be that big of a difference."
Greinke pointed to his curveball as the reason for his dominant effort against the Pirates.
"That pitch, it was the best that pitch has felt in years," Greinke said.
The right-hander also mixed in a lot of fastballs -- along with with some sliders and changeups -- to baffle the Pirates for seven innings before tiring and allowing two runs in the eighth.
"The only thing that was great was the curve," Greinke said. "Everything else was good, though. If you have got three pitches going good you should be fine. I had four going good."
The victory allowed the Brewers to maintain their four-game lead in the National League Central over the Cardinals, who beat the Rockies, 6-1.
"We've just got to keep playing our game and keep playing hard," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said.
Milwaukee obtained Greinke (11-4) and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt from the Royals for four of their top young players, right-handers Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress, shortstop Alcides Escobar and outfielder Lorenzo Cain.
Expected to lead a revamped rotation, Greinke missed the first month of the season after breaking a rib while playing pickup basketball. He struggled in his return, carrying a 5.45 ERA into the All-Star break.
He's been sensational since then, though, going 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in six starts. In 40 1/3 innings since the All-Star Game, Greinke has struck out 44 batters while walking only 10.
Against the Pirates, Greinke struck out nine and issued one free pass. In the first seven innings, he allowed only four balls out of the infield -- a flyout to Andrew McCutchen to lead off the first, and three singles.
"That's probably as good as I've seen him," Roenicke said. "Location was outstanding. Really good life on his fastball, both in and out of the zone. Breaking balls were good with that slow curveball, and he had his slider working. That was really locked in Greinke, those first seven."
After Pittsburgh cut the lead to 4-2 in the eighth, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder greeted reliever Joe Beimel with back-to-back home runs. The long ball was Braun's 22nd and 150th of his career. Fielder's was his 27th. Lucroy then hit a two-out single, scoring Betancourt from third, to make it 7-2.
Against Pittsburgh starter Paul Maholm (6-13), Fielder and Casey McGehee did the damage.
Fielder came into the game with only four hits in 45 at-bats against Maholm, but he lashed two singles against the left-hander and scored a run.
McGehee, coming off a 3-for-21 slump during the team's six-game road trip, singled in the second and scored the Brewers first run on Josh Wilson's RBI single. He then hit a two-out triple down the right-field line in the third, scoring Braun and Fielder to give the Brewers a 3-0 lead.
Maholm said he was throwing good pitches, but the Brewers were finding holes in the Pirates' defense.
"I'm kind of getting tired of the jam jobs and the floaters, because I'm making decent pitches," Maholm said.
Francisco Rodriguez, who recorded the final out of the eighth, notched his first big league hit in the bottom of the frame. After originally warming up to begin the ninth, Rodriguez was removed by Roenicke with leg cramps sustained while running to first base on the hit.
After the game, Rodriguez said he was fine and that he had not experienced cramps in both legs before.
Joe DiGiovanni is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.