MILWAUKEE (AP) — Mike Fiers is happy to be pitching in the big leagues again in the middle of a pennant race, and he’s not afraid to get a little emotional on the mound.
Fiers extended his successful run since being called up from Triple-A, winning his fourth straight start after holding the Pittsburgh Pirates to two hits in seven innings in a 4-3 win Sunday.
Approaching 100 pitches near the end of the seventh, Fiers yelled and pumped his right arm as he exited the mound after Pedro Alvarez lined to short for the third out.
"I knew that was probably going to be my last inning," Fiers said. "I’m just so pumped up to be up here and contribute to this team."
That might be an understatement — the lanky right-hander has a 1.29 ERA in 28 innings in four outings since replacing the injured Matt Garza in the rotation. Fiers has 32 strikeouts to just four walks in that span.
On Sunday, Fiers (4-1) fanned seven to help Milwaukee avoid a three-game sweep. He allowed Starling Marte’s two-run shot in the second before retiring 16 of the next 17 batters.
"It has been incredibly impressive," outfielder Ryan Braun said. "I don’t think anybody foresaw him coming up and being the best pitcher in baseball the last four starts."
Closer Francisco Rodriguez gave up a homer to Andrew McCutchen with one in the ninth. Rodriguez put the tying run aboard with two outs with a walk before striking out Alvarez for his 39th save.
Milwaukee knocked around Vance Worley (5-4) for four runs over the first two innings, with each hit coming with two outs. Pittsburgh had its three-game winning streak snapped and dropped to five back in the NL Central.
"Back-to-back innings, I haven’t seen it very often, with two outs, nobody on, four straight hits," manager Clint Hurdle said. "And again it goes back to rhythm. I think his (delivery) angle."
Worley settled down after the first two innings, retiring 13 of 15 until leaving with one out in the seventh.
Jonathan Lucroy hit his National League-leading 43rd double for the Brewers, who snapped a three-game losing streak to increase their lead in the Central to 1 1/2 games over second-place St. Louis.