PITTSBURGH (AP) — George Kottaras, playing only because of an injury, doubled in a run and the Milwaukee Brewers rallied from a three-run deficit to end a nine-game losing streak, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 on Thursday night.
Hours after general manager Doug Melvin strongly supported manager Ken Macha, the Brewers came back from 3-0 deficit in the first with a pair of two-run innings. Carlos Villanueva finished it off by pitching the ninth for the first save this season by a Brewers reliever other than Trevor Hoffman, who sat out the two-game series to work on mechanical problems.
Villanueva hit pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit in the back with a pitch with one out, only to get Delwyn Young to ground into a game-ending double play.
The Brewers were 5 for 13 in save opportunities — Hoffman is 5 for 10 — before Villanueva pitched in his first save situation this season. Milwaukee's bullpen came in with a 6.17 ERA, the NL's second-worst, before following starter Chris Narveson (4-1) with three shutout innings.
Right-hander John Axford, making his third appearance since being called up from Triple-A, didn't allow a hit while pitching a scoreless seventh and eighth innings.
Neither home plate umpire John Hirschbeck nor Brewers catcher Gregg Zaun made it past the second inning before being lifted with injuries.
Hirschbeck developed concussion-like symptoms when struck by a Narveson warmup pitch that apparently fooled Zaun as the Pirates were about to bat in the first. Hirschbeck stayed in the game as the Pirates took a 3-0 lead, only to be replaced by James Hoye before Milwaukee batted in the second. Three umpires finished the game.
Zaun left with a strained right shoulder in the second — apparently after being struck by a pitch — and Kottaras replaced him. With outfielder Jody Gerut away to be with his pregnant wife, the Zaun injury left the Brewers with only two extra position players because they are carrying 13 pitchers.
Zaun stayed in the game long enough to drive in a run with a grounder following Corey Hart's RBI triple in a two-run second inning. Kottaras then doubled to tie it and Adam Stern added a run-scoring grounder in the fourth as Milwaukee made good use of its four hits in seven innings off Paul Maholm (3-4).
Milwaukee was so thin on the bench, pitcher Yovani Gallardo struck out pinch-hitting for Narveson in the seventh.
The Pirates grabbed their 3-0 lead as five consecutive batters reached in the first against Narveson, with Steve Pearce contributing a two-run triple over the head of center fielder Stern and Andy LaRoche following with a double.
Narveson was effective after that, giving up three hits over five shutout innings.
Pittsburgh's first two batters in the fifth, Lastings Milledge and Bobby Crosby, each reached second, only to be tagged out in rundowns resulting from balls hit in the infield.
NOTES: Milwaukee LH Manny Parra will make his second start of the season Sunday at Minnesota. ... Stern made only his sixth career start in CF. The first five came with Boston in 2005-06. ... Prince Fielder went 0 for 3 against Maholm and is 3 for 40 (.075) against him in his career. ... Villanueva had five previous career saves, three last season. ... Milwaukee avoided its first 10-game losing streak since late in the 2006 season.