Pittsburgh, PA – Marco Estrada tossed seven strong innings and the Milwaukee Brewers continued to roll with a 3-1 win over the fading Pittsburgh Pirates in the second of three from PNC Park.
Estrada (4-6) gave up just three hits and a walk with four strikeouts and also drove in a run in his second straight win.
Norichika Aoki hit a solo home run to start the game, while Jean Segura went 2-for-4 with two runs scored for the Brewers, who have won four straight, seven of eight and 18 of their past 23 to get back in the playoff hunt.
"It feels a lot like last year where we were all relaxed and it was so much fun," said Estrada. "We've never gotten down on ourselves this year and now we're starting to feel like something special can happen."
Milwaukee stayed 2 1/2 games back of St. Louis for the final wild card spot in the National League as the Cardinals downed the Astros on Wednesday.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has dropped 14 of its last 18 games to fall back to .500 on the season and sit 4 1/2 games out of the last wild card.
Andrew McCutchen homered in the ninth inning to bring a scoreless streak of 23 innings for the Pirates while Kyle McPherson (0-1) lost his first career start after giving up two runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings.
"We just haven't played well in a while now," said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. "We have to find a way to finish games. There's 162 games in this season and it's not over yet, we can turn this around if we want to. I have to do more and the guys have to do more."
Milwaukee took the lead on the second pitch of the game as Aoki led off with his ninth home run of the year.
Pittsburgh left a man on third in the first, then stranded Michael McKenry at second in the second inning when he doubled with one out.
Ryan Braun lined into a double play to end the third inning as Rickie Weeks was caught off first, and Starling Marte hit into an inning-ending double play in the third for Pittsburgh.
Milwaukee hit into another inning-ending double play in the fourth, but added to its lead in the fifth as Segura led off with a double, took third on a balk and scored on Estrada's single.
The Pirates were retired in order in the fifth and sixth, then Milwaukee made it a 3-0 game in the seventh as Segura led off with a triple and crossed the plate after Estrada reached base on a Brock Holt error.
Pittsburgh was set down 1-2-3 in the seventh and Jim Henderson tossed a scoreless eighth inning for Milwaukee.
McCutchen homered off of John Axford to start the ninth and Pedro Alvarez singled with one out to bring the tying run to the plate. Axford, though, struck out McKenry looking and forced a groundout from Travis Snider for his 30th save of the season.
The Brewers have won 10 of the 14 games with Pittsburgh this season ... The Brewers hit into four double plays in the game ... Pittsburgh batted 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left six on base ... Estrada moved to 3-0 in eight games (5 starts) against the Pirates in his career.