An afternoon designated for the grand return of an elite starting pitcher who might have a hand in tilting the division race delivered on that promise Saturday at Miller Park.

It just wasn't only the ace in a Cardinals jersey.

Milwaukee starter Zack Greinke bested Adam Wainwright and defused the Cardinals' lineup in the Brewers' 6-0 victory. Greinke and two homers by Corey Hart ushered the defending World Series champions to their first loss of 2012. Greinke struck out seven in seven shutout innings, running his franchise-best streak of consecutive home wins to 12. Wainwright pitched 5 2/3 solid innings in his first regular-season appearance in 563 days, gaining sharpness with each inning until leaving in the middle of the sixth inning.

"We had two heavyweights going at it there for awhile," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "When you run into those guys (like Greinke), you try and scratch and claw and get something going. Our guy went out and really did the same thing."

In his first start since September 2010, Wainwright struck out six and allowed three runs on four hits and a walk. Wainwright, who missed all of 2011 recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, eclipsed 75 pitches for the first time this year. Aramis Ramirez's sixth-inning RBI double came on Wainwright's 88th pitch and chased him from the game. Wainwright (0-1) weathered early command trouble, found his groove and reached that point in the game with the Cardinals trailing only by a run.

Only Greinke (1-0) was better.

Pitching through six innings with a 1-0 lead, Greinke muzzled the first Cardinals' lineup in club history to start a season with at least 13 hits in the first two games. The Cardinals had blistered Miami and Milwaukee with 15 runs, 29 hits and 30 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the first two games. Greinke faced the minimum through four innings, and by the end of the fifth the Cardinals got just five balls out of the infield.