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Estrada bounced back to lead Brewers' victory

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- It was all about timing for Marco Estrada -- and for the rest of the Milwaukee Brewers, too.

Estrada bounced back from two awful outings by pitching seven strong innings, and Norichika Aoki had three hits and three RBIs to lead the Brewers to a 4-1 victory over the Pirates on Monday night in the opener of a four-game series at PNC Park.

The Brewers had been 1-10 in May, but Estrada (2-3) lifted them out of their doldrums by giving up only one run and three hits with one walk and five strikeouts while helping snap the Pirates' three-game winning streak.

A trip to Pittsburgh also couldn't have come at a better time on Milwaukee's schedule. The Brewers (16-20) have won 30 of their last 38 games against the Pirates, including 11 of the last 14 at PNC Park.

Estrada was rocked for a combined 13 runs in 8 1/3 innings in his previous two starts, but raised his career record against Pittsburgh to 4-0. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke moved Estrada's turn in the starting rotation back two days so the right-hander could have an extra side throwing session with pitching coach Rick Kranitz.

Estrada credited the extra work with Kranitz for getting his delivery back on track.

"The timing was the biggest thing for me," Estrada said. "I just felt so much better. My timing was better in my delivery, and it helped me throw a lot more strikes and good pitches than the last two times out. It just feels good to pitch well and help the team win a game. More than anything, we needed a win as a team."

Aoki had two doubles among his three hits. He also drove in three runs and stole two bases.

"I'm just trying to keep up with what Seg is doing behind me in the lineup," Aoki, the Brewers' Japanese leadoff hitter, said with a smile through a translator. "We're having a fun competition with each other."

"Seg" is hot-hitting Brewers shortstop Jean Segura. He had three hits and three steals after being named the National League Player of the Week earlier in the day.

Segura is 16-for-34 in his last eight games, lifting his batting average to .368 and moving the 23-year-old shortstop one point ahead of teammate Carlos Gomez (.367) for the NL lead.

"I just feel so good right now," Segura said. "To win an award like Player of Week, that is like a gift from God. It just gives me even more confidence."

Milwaukee was successful on all six steal attempts against pitcher A.J. Burnett, who also committed two errors, and catcher Michael McKenry. Five of the stolen bases came in the three innings in which the Brewers scored.

"They have more team speed than anybody in the league," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "At the end of the day, everybody in the lineup runs with the exception of (third baseman) Aramis Ramirez really and when he's healthy he goes a little. They teach it well and they've got athletic guys."

Burnett (3-4) allowed four runs -- three earned -- and seven hits in seven innings while striking out six and walking none. Pittsburgh (21-17) was held to four hits and Clint Barmes had two of them.

Burnett's last inning, the seventh, was particularly ugly as the Pirates made three errors.

"We got a few breaks tonight with some choppers and errors, but sometimes you need a break or two when you're struggling. I thought we played a really good game," Roenicke said.

First baseman Gaby Sanchez muffed Logan Schafer's grounder to start the inning. Burnett's pickoff throw then bounced into the stands, allowing Schafer to advance to second. Schafer eventually scored when Burnett fumbled Aoki's comebacker.

"I thought A.J. competed his backside off," Hurdle said. "It wasn't one of his better games, but he battled and did everything he could to keep us in the game."

Pittsburgh got its lone run in the bottom of the seventh when Sanchez doubled and scored on Pedro Alvarez's ground out.

Milwaukee scored a run in the top of the first inning when Aoki led off with a double, went on third on Segura's single and scored on Gomez's single.

Schafer started the Brewers' two-run third with a double into the right-field corner, then scored on Aoki's one-out double. Aoki stole third and came home on an infield single by Segura, who hit a tapper between the pitcher's mound and home plate. That put Milwaukee ahead, 3-0.

"We needed a win like this," Roenicke said. "It's still early in the season, but it's also to the point where you can't wait too late to get going. We need to play a lot better than we've been playing and hopefully this was the start of something."

NOTES: Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun was not in the lineup because of stiffness in his neck and upper back. The Brewers are hopeful a day of rest will help Braun recover and enable him to play Tuesday. ... Slumping Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks did not start for the first time this season as Roenicke decided to give him a mental break then struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, lowering his batting average to .181. ... Pittsburgh activated second baseman Neil Walker from the 15-day disabled list before the game and went 0-for-4. Infielder Jordy Mercer was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Walker had been out since April 27 with a six-stitch cut on his right index finger. Mercer hit .258 with three home runs in nine games. ... Kyle Lohse (1-4, 3.53) will start for Milwaukee on Tuesday night against left-hander Jeff Locke (3-1, 2.95). Lohse is 9-2 in his career against the Pirates. Locke has won his last three decisions since losing his first start of the season April 6 against the Dodgers at Los Angeles.
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