OAKLAND -- The last time Zack Greinke pitched at Oakland Coliseum, he gave up four runs on six hits, walked five batters and lasted only five innings. Afterward, he would often say, "That was probably the worst I've ever felt."
But Greinke is in a completely different state these days. So are the Angels.
On Tuesday night, in what easily was his biggest start with his new team, Greinke twirled seven innings of one-run ball against the previously red-hot Athletics, leading the Angels to a 6-1 victory that gave them the first two of this critical three-game set and seven victories over their last eight games.
As manager Mike Scioscia said, this was "obviously 180 degrees from his start earlier here in Oakland."
"I forgot about that, actually," Greinke said, tongue firmly in cheek. "No, it was awful. Thanks for reminding me."
A combined four earned runs over your last three starts tends to give you a better attitude about that sort of thing. Greinke has turned it around after struggling shortly upon arriving from Milwaukee. So has everyone else on the staff, going from a 5.71 ERA in a 42-game stretch that began July 3 to a 3.15 mark over their last 14 games.
"Ever since I've been here, the offense has been amazing, but we're starting to pitch better and that's why we're winning games," Greinke said. "Everyone's doing their job and playing good baseball. When I first got here, the pitching wasn't really getting the job done. But we've gotten better."
Over that 14-game stretch in which the rotation has been better, the Angels have won 10 games. But they've gained only one game in the American League Wild Card standings, where they're still 3 1/2 back of the second spot with only 26 games left.
That tends to happen when three teams are ahead of you.
"They're playing good, too, but we just have to worry about ourselves," Angels center fielder Mike Trout said. "We can't look at them and scoreboard watch yet. If we do what we do, we have the confidence that we can make the playoffs. We just have to take it one game at a time. Every game's going to be big for us."
The Angels, minus the slumping Mark Trumbo, did little against Jarrod Parker, who limited them to two runs over a seven-inning outing. But they tacked on late, scoring two runs in each of the last two innings to pull away and give them double-digit-hit games for the fifth time in the last seven.
Trout went 2-for-5 and finally got the Angels on the board with a fifth-inning RBI single, Albert Pujols went 2-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 13 games, Kendrys Morales had three hits and broke the game open with a ninth-inning RBI double and Alberto Callaspo drove in two and scored another.
"We're just up there battling and putting some good at-bats together," Trout said. "Things are coming together for us."
But it was Greinke who set it all up, keeping the A's scoreless through the first six innings and giving up only a seventh-inning homer to Brandon Moss, ultimately scattering four hits and walking two while winning a third straight game.
"He maybe made one mistake, the one that Moss hit," A's skipper Bob Melvin said. "He just had us off balance all night."
"He's pretty even-keel," Scioscia said. "I think that's why he's successful. I think he really competes very well. I don't think he gets too up for big games. I think he's just pitching his game, and that's a great trait to have as a pitcher."
In his first four starts of August, Greinke compiled a 7.20 ERA, with one of those outing being a dud at this same venue on Aug. 8. But lately, he's been the frontline starter the Angels thought they had acquired before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, posting a 1.66 ERA while giving up just four earned runs over a three-start span.
"Just trying to pitch like normal, I guess," he said. "I kind of got a little messed up. The Oakland game here I was throwing all sinkers, and it's not really my game. I was trying to throw too hard the next two starts. So I just kind of went back to normal and it's worked out good, so far."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.