MILWAUKEE — Kyle Lohse was eager to top his Milwaukee teammates.
He sure came close.
Lohse came within an out of a complete game, and the Brewers won their ninth straight with a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
“We talked about it and it is a friendly competition to see what the guy in front of you did and do it better,” he said of the Brewers’ rotation.
At 10-2, the Brewers are off to their best start since going 13-0 to open the 1987 season. This is Milwaukee’s longest winning streak since a nine-game string last April.
Lohse (2-1) gave up four hits and struck out nine in 8 2-3 innings. He fanned five straight in the seventh and eighth innings.
Lohse retired 12 of his last 13 batters. He was pulled with two outs in the ninth after giving up a single to Andrew McCutchen.
Will Smith struck out Pedro Alvarez on three pitches to record his first career save.
Milwaukee’s rotation has been outstanding. The starters have a combined 1.80 ERA over the first 12 games, giving up just 22 earned runs.
Lohse said he was disappointed to be pulled one out from a complete game, but understand the decision by manager Ron Roenicke.
“It is tough, but I understand,” he said. “I’ve been around long enough to know that we need to win that game and keep the momentum going. I wanted to finish it, but I know that if I wanted to I needed to get that guy (McCuthchen) out.”
Roenicke said he pulled Lohse because he was at 100 pitches.
“Sometimes the decisions aren’t very popular, but they’re decisions as a manager you need to make,” Roenicke said. “I thought Kyle pitched a great game. When you get to 100 pitches, that starts to put pressure on a pitcher and we’ve got a long season to go.”
Lohse had some fine defense behind him as shortstop Jean Segura made several tough plays and outfielder Logan Shafer robbed Alvarez of at least a double in the second inning when he hauled in Alvarez’s long drive just before crashing into the left field wall.
“That was huge because normally that is a double and then I have some work to do,” Lohse said.
The Brewers broke open the game in the sixth, helped by an error. Aramis Ramirez walked and moved to third on Lyle Overbay’s double, just his second hit of the season.
Morton struck out Scooter Gennett, but the ball was in the dirt. Catcher Tony Sanchez’s throw to first was wide and went down the right field line, allowing Ramirez and Overbay to score.
Roenicke said the play was an example of all the breaks the Brewers are getting right now because the team is playing well.
“I think anytime you play good baseball and are doing things right, you seem to get more breaks,” he said. “They make that play and we have to come up with big hits in other places.”
Charlie Morton (0-1) pitched seven innings as the Pirates lost for the fourth time in five games.
“It would have been a much closer game if I didn’t butcher that play,” Sanchez said. “I take a lot of pride in my defense and I take a lot of pride in getting my pitchers through as many innings as possible. That score does not reflect Charlie’s performance today.”
Martin Maldonado got the first hit of the game as he lined a double off the right field wall leading off the Milwaukee third. Lohse sacrificed and Carlos Gomez hit a sacrifice fly.
The Pirates tied the game in the fourth. Starling Marte led off with a single, moved to third on a perfect hit-and-run single by Jose Tabata and scored on McCutchen’s sacrifice fly, just beating the throw from Gomez in center.
Ryan Braun doubled in the Milwaukee fourth and scored on a single by Ramirez, who has 11 RBIs.
NOTES: The Brewers will try for their 10th straight win Monday night when they host St. Louis. Matt Garza starts against the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn. … The Pirates move on to Cincinnati, where Wandy Rodriquez will face Homer Bailey of the Reds. … The Brewers and the Pirates will meet again in a four-game series in Pittsburgh starting Thursday.