Actually, it was small, by recent Miller Park standards.
The Brewers thought Zack Greinke looked great.
Actually, he was good but not great, by Greinke's own very high standards.
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He'll learn. They'll learn. And there's every reason to believe that by the time Greinke settles in as a Brewer, he'll be everything they hoped for, and they'll be everything he hoped for.
There's every reason to believe that this marriage of player and team is going to work.
"I think Zack is real happy here," Prince Fielder said. "He's cool. He makes fun of people. He fits right in."
He fits in best when he's winning games, and it shouldn't go unnoticed that Monday was his first Brewers victory, 4-3 against the Padres. He fits in best if the Brewers are winning games, and while that needs a little work, they're hardly buried at five games out of first place.
Yes, the Royals team Greinke left behind (because they weren't ready to win) is 18-16, while the Brewers team he joined (because they could win) is 15-21. Even the Nationals team he rejected (because they were too much like the Royals) is better, at 16-18.
That's all fine, but you'd still give the Brewers a far better chance to make the playoffs this year than the Royals, the Nationals or a whole lot of other teams.
To get there, they'll obviously need to hit better than they have. But they'll also need Greinke to pitch like a focused ace, and that's one reason Monday was a good start.
Was this Greinke at his best? No, but that's understandable, because after missing much of spring training and the first month of the season because of a broken rib, he's still building toward full strength.
This was, however, Greinke at his most determined. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke noticed it, when he saw 94 mph fastballs to the first batter of the game.
"From the first batter on, that's as hard as I've seen him go," said Roenicke, who saw Greinke often in the American League. "When he really wants to get after it and is locked in, this is the type of performance you get."
Greinke went six innings, allowing two runs on five hits, with no walks and nine strikeouts.
Not bad at all, as long as you don't consider the opponent. These are the Padres, who were shut out eight times in their first 34 games.
Already this year, seven opposing starters have struck out nine or more Padres. Already this year, 24 opposing starters have held the Padres to two runs or fewer. Already this year, 28 opposing starters have gone six innings or more against them.
At his best, Greinke stands out from that pack.
"It was good," he said. "The key is to win, and it was better than us scoring 15 and me giving up 12."
That's Zack, just as the 65 mph curveball he threw Mat Latos in the fifth inning was vintage Zack.
"He made me look stupid that last at-bat," Greinke said, referring to his own strikeout in the fourth. "I wanted to get him out pretty bad."
|Zack Greinke makes his home debut and gets his first win as a Brewer. (US Presswire)|
The Brewers tried to hype up this start, even handing out "rally towels" (rally towels for a pitcher?) printed with Greinke's No. 13 and the words "First start at Miller Park."
And, for the most part, it still felt like just another Brewers home game.
That's not a bad thing, because it shows what a draw this small-market team has become. For a franchise that has made the playoffs just once in the last 28 years (and didn't make it past the first round), it's a remarkable success story.
"It's directly impacted our payroll, No. 1," said Brewers infielder Craig Counsell, who grew up in Wisconsin. "It's not a media-driven payroll. It's driven by the fans. Quite honestly, we've teased the fans a little the last couple of years, but they keep coming."
All those fans are the reason the Brewers could afford to trade for Greinke, and why they could afford to sign Ryan Braun to a big-money contract extension through 2020. The day after Braun signed that contract, the fans greeted him with a standing ovation.
"It was crazy, man," Braun said. "It's a special place to play."
Greinke will learn that. And they'll learn that he can be a special pitcher.
The first night wasn't bad, not at all. But there's every reason to believe that Greinke -- and the Miller Park crowds -- will get better.