MILWAUKEE -- The All-Star break couldn't cool off Mike Fiers, who made sure the Pirates wouldn't be able to make that claim. Fiers' three-hit pitching through seven led the Brewers to a 4-1 win Friday night over the Bucs, who had entered the break with 13 wins in 16 games.
"I thought tonight he had a really good fastball," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Fiers, who struck out seven. "I thought his fastball had that life on it, that little bit of extra life on it. You could see that in the strikeouts."
Gerardo Parra provided the offensive support, scoring after leading off the game with a double, doubling to make it 2-0 in the fifth, and finally hitting the hard grounder in the seventh that first baseman Pedro Alvarez misplayed for an error that led to two more runs.
Fiers allowed one run -- on Jung Ho Kang's one-out homer in the seventh -- to lower to 3.79 an ERA that has been steadily decreasing since early May.
"He was very aggressive early, and he kept the ball down," said Neil Walker, who connected for the Pirates' first hit leading off the fourth. "And you saw what happened when he got a little tired and started to get the ball up: Kang hit that homer."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED You have been warned: Fiers hit two batters -- Starling Marte in the second and Kang in the fifth -- before any response, but home-plate ump Dale Scott warned the benches when Charlie Morton nailed Scooter Gennett in the bottom of the fifth. Adding to the pique of the Pirates, who stranded both of their hit batters, Parra's double drove home Gennett for a 2-0 Brewers lead.
Leadoff man: Parra helped get the Brewers on the board in the first inning, smacking a leadoff double down the left-field line. After a sacrifice bunt from catcher Jonathan Lucroy, Parra scored on Ryan Braun's groundout to second baseman Walker. Parra, a potential trade chip for Milwaukee, entered Friday batting .335 since April 25, ranking him fifth behind All-Stars Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Cabrera and Jason Kipnis. More >
"Since he's been [in the leadoff spot], he's done a nice job," Counsell said of Parra. "He's been a really important piece of our offense. He's been one of the best hitters in the league really."
Fundamental loss: The Bucs got beat by little ball; the Brewers had only one run-scoring hit. Most damaging was Alvarez's 15th error, which led to two runs in the seventh after Kang's homer had brought the Pirates within a run in the top of the inning.
"We got that ground ball to the right side we weren't able to defend," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "If we play better on [defense] in the seventh inning, who knows how that inning plays out. At the end of the day, we didn't play well enough to win."
K-Rod closes: All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez converted his 368th career save by not allowing a hit in the ninth, moving him past Jeff Reardon for eighth on the all-time saves list. It was also Rodriguez's 25th consecutive save, including 20 this season, without a blown opportunity. He has the third-longest active saves streak behind only Pittsburgh's Mark Melancon (27) and Minnesota's Glen Perkins (28).
"It's always a conversation you have when you score one run after an All-Star Game." -- Hurdle, asked if the four-day All-Star break can mess up a team's offensive momentum
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
It was only a double-play ball off the bat of Lucroy in the seventh inning, but it was enough for Pirates reliever Jared Hughes to allow his first inherited runner to score since May 1. In between, the sinkerball specialist had stranded 17 inherited runners.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates:Francisco Liriano, the only member of the Pirates' rotation in whose starts the club has a losing record (8-10) despite his solid 2.98 ERA and .192 opponents average, takes on the Brewers in the series' middle game at 7:10 p.m. ET in Miller Park.
Brewers:Jimmy Nelson will toe the rubber for Milwaukee on Saturday at Miller Park. He's surrendered just two earned runs in 18 innings this season against the Pirates and is coming off a start where he didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning. Nelson's first pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT.