Braden Looper didn’t get the run support he’s used to.
Looper allowed four hits over seven innings to win his fourth consecutive decision and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0 on Tuesday night.
The Brewers scored an average of 10 runs during each of Looper’s three previous wins since June 29, but all they managed in his latest was Prince Fielder‘s two two-out RBI singles.
“I’m sure the guys were trying to score eight or 10,” said Looper, who won for the fourth time in his past five starts overall. “That’s just the way baseball is. You’ve got to take the runs when you can get them and just go out there and try to put zeros on the board. The defense made some big plays behind me, we put up a couple runs and that’s all we needed.”
Craig Counsell went 3 for 4 and scored both runs for the Brewers (48-46), who avoided falling to .500 for the first time since May 2.
Last-place Pittsburgh, which snapped a 17-game losing streak to the Brewers on Monday, was shut out for the ninth time this season.
“You get four hits, you’re not going to win too many games,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “We were fortunate to keep it 2-0. The pitching staff did a nice job keeping us in the game, but you’re not going to win too many games with four hits.”
Looper (9-4) walked three – one intentionally – and had one strikeout.
“We’ve scored some runs for him lately and he’s picked up some wins,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “Tonight, he made some pitches. His intensity was high.”
Mike DiFelice and Mitch Stetter combined to work a perfect eighth and Trevor Hoffman earned his 22nd save in 24 opportunities by retiring the side in order in the ninth.
Fielder, whose 86 RBIs is second in the NL, lined a single down the first-base line in the fifth to drive in Counsell for the first time.
In the seventh, Fielder’s liner was the team’s third consecutive single after Pirates starter Virgil Vasquez had retired the inning’s first two hitters.
“Prince had a couple big hits,” Macha said. “That’s the half-full. The half-empty is we left 10 guys on, too. We had chances to score a bunch. But you’ve got give their guy credit, too. He made good pitches.”
Pitching a day following the teams’ benches and bullpens clearing after the Pirates‘ Jeff Karstens was hit by a pitch, Vasquez (1-4) lost his fourth consecutive start since winning his Pirates debut June 26. He allowed two runs and nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts.
“Body, mind felt really good tonight,” Vasquez said. “I went out there and with everything that happened last night, I really wanted this one for myself and for the team. We came out fighting; everybody did. Some two-out knocks kind of hurt me today.”
Although Pittsburgh never advanced a runner past second base against Looper, the Pirates were only retired in order twice by him and had numerous opportunities to score.
Adam LaRoche (second inning) and Delwyn Young (fifth) both hit one-out doubles but were stranded. In the sixth, Looper walked Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones before two were out, but Pittsburgh’s Nos. 4-5 hitters – Ryan Doumit and LaRoche – failed to advance them.
In the seventh, LaRoche singled with one out and Ramon Vazquez followed with a sinking liner to shallow left-center that Mike Cameron made a diving catch on.
“That was huge,” Looper said. “When he hit it, I knew he didn’t hit it well. It was a ball you just don’t know if it’s going to drop in, and he made a really good play on it.”
Cameron then ran down pinch-hitter Brandon Moss‘ fly ball to the deepest part of the ballpark in left-center to preserve Looper’s shutout bid.
“It was tough today,” Jones said. “(Looper) had a good sinker, he was throwing in and out, hitting his spots well, switching up his pitches, mixing it up. He was good in different counts. When you’re doing that and throwing strikes, it’s difficult to really square him up too good. He did well tonight.”
Playing in only his second game with Milwaukee, 2B Felipe Lopez left in the eighth with left hamstring tightness. Macha said he will be reevaluated Wednesday. … Pittsburgh entered the game with the best home batting average in the NL but went 4 for 30. … The Pirates have allowed only 11 earned runs in their past 57 innings (1.73 ERA).