Greinke gave up one run and Howie Kendrick broke a scoreless tie with a two-run double in the sixth, lifting the Angels to a 2-1 win over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night.
"That's the kind of game we need him to give us when he gets the ball," Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said.
Miguel Cabrera's two-out solo homer in the eighth chased Greinke. Scott Downs got the Angels out of the inning by getting Prince Fielder to ground out and retired Brennan Boesch to lead off the ninth. Garrett Richards struck out Delmon Young and Jhonny Peralta for the final two outs to earn his first career save.
Greinke (2-2) gave up five hits and two walks while striking out five over 7 2/3 innings. He was thankful that his outfielders had room to catch some deep fly balls in spacious Comerica Park.
"If we were playing in a smaller ballpark, it would have been a six, seven run game," Greinke said.
Rick Porcello (9-9) allowed two runs and seven hits over six innings. He allowed a walk and struck out six.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland was told by the team's medical staff that Cabrera was healthy enough to be a designated hitter, a day after he was taken out of a game with a sore right ankle.
Cabrera, playing with a heavily taped right ankle, said before the series opener against the Angels that he hoped to be back at third base on Saturday night.
Leyland didn't sound as if that was likely following the loss.
"I'm concerned about it after watching tonight," Leyland said. "He looked good at the plate, but moving around, certainly you would have to say there's some questions."
Greinke retired 11 straight before Cabrera hit a two-out double in the sixth. He stranded Cabrera by striking out Fielder looking and arguing about the called strike.
"He was hitting his spots," Fielder said before bristling about the possibly pivotal called strike.
Greinke lasted more than seven innings for the first time since pitching a shutout for Milwaukee on June 22. He was an out away from potentially pitching in the ninth when Cabrera hit his 32nd homer to pull Detroit within a run.
The Angels have won four straight for the first time in two months. Detroit had won three straight and six of eight.
The Angels had high hopes for Greinke when they acquired the 2009 AL Cy Young award winner nearly a month ago from the Brewers. He won on the road for the first time since June 27, when he was with Milwaukee, after giving up at least four earned runs in four straight starts for the first time in his nine-year career.
"For a while, I just pitched bad," Greinke said.
Fielder wasn't surprised to see his former Brewers teammate bounce back.
"When he's on the mound, he's dangerous," Fielder said.
Greinke gave up a hit and allowed a walk in the first inning before hustling to catch Boesch's popup in foul territory near Detroit's dugout.
After Ramon Santiago hit a leadoff single in the third, the Tigers couldn't get a runner on base until there were two outs in the sixth when Cabrera lumbered to second on his heavily taped right ankle.
Porcello pitched well, but paid the price for throwing a chest-high, 82-mph pitch when he had Kendrick down 0-2 in the sixth inning.
"He just left one up over the plate," Kendrick said. "I saw it and hit it."
Kendrick drove the ball into the left-center gap to bring Maicer Izturis scored and Mark Trumbo home after Torii Hunter extended the inning by a hard slide into second base that led to Omar Infante making a wide throw on a potential double play in what Scioscia called the key play of game.
"Just hustled down there and tried to break up the double play and that's what I did," Hunter said. "I was a told by a pretty good player when I was young -- Kirby Puckett -- to always do something that helps the team win."
Cabrera was back in the lineup as a DH, a day after leaving a game with an injured right ankle, and hopes to be at 3B on Saturday. ... Angels 1B Albert Pujols has missed two straight games with an injured right calf and is aiming to play Saturday. ... Detroit's Brayan Villarreal and Octavio Dotel pitched three innings of scoreless relief. ... The Angels' last four-game winning streak was June 24-28. ... Greinke is 8-4 at Comerica Park, where he has won more games than any other place that hasn't been one of his home ballparks. ... Detroit optioned RHP Luke Putkonen to Triple-A Toledo and recalled LHP Drew Smyly to start Saturday's game. ... Izturis, who matched a season high with three hits, stole his career-high 15th base.