By Will Graves
Marco Estrada allowed three hits over seven innings and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the sloppy Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1 on Monday night to snap a four-game losing streak.
Norichika Aoki went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and two stolen bases for the Brewers. Jean Segura added three hits and three stolen bases as Milwaukee ran wild against Pittsburgh backup catcher Mike McKenry. The Brewers stole six bases in all and took advantage of three Pittsburgh errors to win for just the second time this month.
Estrada (3-2) bounced back from a rough start against St. Louis by striking out five and issuing just one walk to remain unbeaten against the Pirates.
Burnett (3-4) allowed four runs in seven innings and pushed his National League-leading strikeout total to 72, but Pittsburgh couldn’t extend its winning streak to a season-high four games.
The Brewers came in just 1-9 in their last 10 games and played without star Ryan Braun, given the night off as a precaution after a neck issue that bothered him earlier this season against Los Angeles flared up.
Milwaukee hardly needed him, not when they were turning every single into extra bases. McKenry was thrust into the starting lineup while Russell Martin nursed a neck issue and though he has proven to be an offensive spark at times, his defense remains suspect.
McKenry allowed the New York Mets to steal four bases on Sunday, and things only got worse at the start of a 10-game homestand — all against sub-.500 teams — the Pirates hope will allow them to make inroads on streaking St. Louis in the NL Central.
The trouble started early. Aoki doubled to lead off the game and Segura reached on an infield hit. Segura promptly dashed to second even though McKenry called a pitchout. Aoki scored when Carlos Gomez’s chopper to the mound skipped of Burnett’s glove and rolled away.
Burnett escaped the first by allowing just the one run, but Aoki and Segura struck again in the fifth. Logan Schafer led off with a double and moved to third on Estrada’s sacrifice bunt. Aoki followed with a double then swiped third and scored on a swinging bunt by Segura.
The Pirates, meanwhile, could manage nothing against Estrada, who gave Milwaukee’s beleaguered pitching staff a much-needed quality start. The Brewers have the worst ERA (4.70) in the NL, a number that took a serious uptick when Estrada was shelled in his previous start, giving up eight runs in 3 1-3 innings against the Cardinals.
There were no such issues against the Pirates. Estrada improved to 4-0 against Pittsburgh. The Pirates touched him for a run in the seventh on Pedro Alvarez’s RBI-groundout but by then he was staked to a 4-1 lead thanks to a bumbling sequence in Burnett’s final inning of work.
Schafer hit a dribbled to first to lead off the seventh but reached when Gaby Sanchez couldn’t collect the ball and step on the bag. Schafer then moved to second when Burnett threw wildly to first trying to keep Schafer near the bag. One batter later Aoki dribbled a grounder that Burnett mishandled for his second error of the inning. Schafer scored and Milwaukee was firmly in control.
NOTES: Milwaukee 2B Rickie Weeks did not start for the first time this season. Manager Ron Roenicke felt Weeks could use the rest. Weeks entered the game in the ninth as a pinch hitter and struck out to drop his average to .181. ... Rick Sofield served as Pirates third base coach on Monday in place of Nick Leyva, who left the team for a few days due to personal reasons. Dave Jauss took over Sofield’s spot at first base ... Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, is scheduled to pitch four innings for Double-A Altoona on Thursday ... The series continues Tuesday. Kyle Lohse (1-4, 3.53 ERA) starts for the Brewers against Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke (3-1, 2.95) ... Pirates closer Jason Grilli left the ballpark for a few hours Monday afternoon due to a personal issue but the NL leader in saves returned by the middle of the game.