MILWAUKEE -- All good things must come to an end. Especially for the Pirates at Miller Park. Thus the Bucs' 11-game winning streak in Francisco Liriano starts came to a crashing halt Thursday night, when Hernan Perez drove in two runs and Taylor Jungmann cast his usual spell over Pittsburgh as the Brewers held on for a 5-3 win.
On the eve of a crucial series in St. Louis, the loss dropped the Pirates 6 1/2 games behind the National League Central-leading Cardinals, who were idle. The Bucs have suffered their only two sweeps since the All-Star break in Milwaukee, and otherwise have gone 26-12 in the season's second half. Since 2007, the Brewers are 61-17 at home against the Pirates.
"We just beat a really good team three times," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I'm proud of the guys."
Liriano, whose last loss had come in Max Scherzer's no-hitter June 20, was scored on in each of the last three innings of his five-plus innings. He had more walks (five) than strikeouts (four) for the first time since last Sept. 17.
"I just got behind and walked too many guys, then they were looking for the fastball," said Liriano, who feasts on getting ahead in the count and getting hitters to chase his hard-breaking slider. "They're not going to swing at that when I'm way behind in the count."
For the third time in as many starts against the Bucs, Jungmann held them to only one run. Whereas he had gone seven innings the two prior times, he went six Thursday, giving up three hits. His ERA after three career starts against the Pirates is 1.35, and he also doubled to boost his batting average to .321, tops among Major League pitchers.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED 20/20 vision:Ryan Braun's 20th stolen base made some history while keying Milwaukee's go-ahead rally. Braun reached on a fielder's choice -- with former Brewer Aramis Ramirez making a nice diving stop to steal a hit-- before swiping second base.
Not only did it make Braun the 31st player in Major League history to log at least four seasons of 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases, it put the go-ahead runner in scoring position for Khris Davis' RBI double, giving the Brewers a 2-1 lead. More >
Ramirez's bat speechless: Ramirez did not address the Miller Park crowd during the brief pregame ceremony the Brewers held to honor their former third baseman, hoping to have his say a little later. He got his chance, coming up with two on and two out in the seventh of a one-run game, but Tyler Thornburg fanned him to protect the Brewers' 4-3 lead. Thornburg was an intriguing choice for Counsell; it was only the right-hander's second high-leverage appearance this season.
"I chased a bad pitch, way up there," Ramirez said of swinging through Thornburg's high 1-and-2 offering after fouling off three consecutive tough pitches. "That's a tough team now, you got a lot of guys playing for jobs."
Sweet stop: Brewers shortstop Jean Segura ranged deep into the hole and made a long, strong throw to first base to rob Francisco Cervelli of a one-out hit in the eighth. Michael Morse followed with a double, but Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress wound up stranding a pair of runners while preserving a 4-3 lead.
"If you've seen me hit batting practice, you knew it wasn't going to go out." -- Jungmann, referring to a third-inning double that nearly cleared the fence for his first home run
"We have enough history of playing good baseball to know we can do this." -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on the challenge faced by his club to rebound from the sweep in St. LouisMore >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Jungmann's ERA after his first 16 Major League starts is 2.42, a mark which would be significant were the season to end Thursday. In the past 40 seasons, only three rookies have made at least 16 starts and finished with an ERA that low: The Marlins' Jose Fernandez in 2013 (2.19 ERA in 28 starts), the Twins' Liriano in 2006 (2.16 ERA in 16 starts plus 12 relief appearances) and the Tigers' Mark Fidrych in 1976 (2.34 ERA in 29 starts plus two relief appearances). Fernandez and Fidrych won their league's Rookie of the Year Award in those seasons. Liriano finished third.
The sweep by the Brewers lowered the Pirates' record to 5-23 in road series they open with a loss -- versus 28-9 when they begin a road series with a victory.
As one of the best third basemen of his generation prepares to call it a career, Ramirez was honored on the field Thursday before playing his 315th and final game in Milwaukee. Counsell and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin presented Ramirez with a glass plaque noting some of his achievements, including those set during 3 1/2 seasons with the Brewers, as well as third base from his final home game at Miller Park. The Brewers traded Ramirez to the Pirates on July 23.
A crew-chief review of Elian Herrera's apparent game-breaking two-run homer in the sixth resulted in the call being reversed into an RBI double for Milwaukee's second baseman. Herrera lashed a ball into the left-field corner originally ruled by second-base umpire Bill Miller of having cleared the yellow line marking home run territory. Replays indicated the ball caromed off the top of the fence and came back into play.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates:J.A. Happ takes the tall order of starting off a pivotal series in St. Louis by facing the Cardinals at 8:15 p.m. ET in Busch Stadium, where he has allowed 16 runs in 11 2/3 innings in three career starts, the most recent on July 25, 2011, with the Astros.
Brewers:Matt Garza will try to avoid being the first Major Leaguer to 15 losses Friday in Cincinnati. He's 4-3 with a 4.71 ERA lifetime against the Reds, but has surrendered nine earned runs in 10 1/3 innings against them this year. Keyvius Sampson's first pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT.