PITTSBURGH – Randy Wolf was the lone Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher without a win and the only one with at least two starts and no scoreless outings.
He joined the rest of his staffmates with a gem on Thursday night.
Wolf struck out 10 and allowed only three hits in 6 2/3 innings, leading the Brewers to a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“You feel like you want to contribute and help this team, and it feels good finally to be able to do that,” Wolf said.
“I think we’ved changed the mentality here about our idea of pitching and our pride about what we do on the mound,” he said.
Brewers starters have gone 6-1 with a 1.84 ERA over the past nine games.
Wolf (1-2) allowed two singles, a double and two walks and didn’t allow a Pittsburgh runner to advance past second base. Milwaukee narrowly missed out on its second consecutive shutout and majors-best fourth in 12 games this season when Pittsburgh scored on a John Axford wild pitch in the ninth.
“[Wolf] kept them off balance real good,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “He mixed it up and sped ’em up, slowed ’em down and put ’em away when he had to.”
Kameron Loe followed with 1 2/3 hitless innings, but Andrew McCutchen scored Pittsburgh’s first run in 23 innings when he came home on the wild pitch after drawing a walk.
Milwaukee has won its past seven April games at PNC Park by a combined score of 65-6, the past four by a combined score of 38-1.
In April games vs. the Pirates since 2005 overall, Milwaukee has won 19 of 21.
The Brewers have won four straight and seven of eight after starting 0-4.
“I feel a lot of positive energy in this clubhouse,” Lucroy said. “I feel good when I come in here. And I feel like that no one even remembers that start.”
The Pirates managed four hits to fall to 1-5 on their opening homestand.
For the fifth time in six home games this season, Pittsburgh was behind before it even came to bat.
Prince Fielder entered the game 3-for-42 lifetime against Pirates starter Paul Maholm (0-2) but lined a single with two on and none out that drove in Rickie Weeks in the first. That was Fielder’s NL-leading 15th RBI – all coming within his current seven-game hitting streak. Two batters later, a Yuniesky Betancourt sacrifice fly scored Ryan Braun to make it 2-0.
“Everyone knows that Maholm gives me trouble, so to be able to get that hit and get that run was really, really key,” Fielder said.
“Especially with Randy. He was locked in,” he said.
Those two early runs proved too much of a deficit for the punchless Pirates to overcome – even with a revamped lineup Thursday. Pittsburgh came in with no runs and only four hits (all singles) in the previous 14 innings.
The streak of extra-base hits would last until the sixth, when Neil Walker’s fly deep to left bounced out of Ryan Braun’s glove and was ruled a double.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle sat struggling third baseman Pedro Alvarez (.200, no home runs) in favor or Steve Pearce. He moved cleanup hitter Lyle Overbay (.238, one homer) down in the order and inserted platoon right fielder Matt Diaz into the No. 4 spot. Pittsburgh starting catcher Chris Snyder also made his season debut after being activated from the disabled list.
The result of the lineup shuffle was more of the same for an offense that ranks last in the NL in runs and entered the game 13th in batting average.
“We were not able to create the big inning, let alone chip away,” Hurdle said.
“We’ve just got to find a way to push through it, play through it, hit through it,” he said,
Wolf entered 8-3 lifetime against the Pirates, but in his most recent appearance against them he allowed career highs in runs (12) and hits (13) in 5 2/3 innings last July 21.
The outing marked the 14th time he had 10 or more strikeouts in a game.
After allowing four of the first five batters he faced to reach, Maholm retired 20 of his final 23. He was charged with two runs on four hits and three walks with six strikeouts in seven innings.
“I would much rather have come out and put up a zero in the first and let our guys relax and not put us behind,” Maholm said. “But you go out there and you try to make sure your team stays in the game. As soon as they got two, I just kind of said, ‘That’s it.’ You’ve got to get seven innings and keep them there and give the guys a chance.”
The Brewers added two in the ninth off Joel Hanrahan.
Visiting teams have 12 first-inning runs in six games at PNC Park this season. … Milwaukee is 48-17 vs. Pittsburgh since 2007. … Pearce made his first major league start at third base. He made his first appearance there in his 141st career game on Saturday.