Tony Armas pitched six sharp innings a day after Milwaukee hit six home runs, and Nate McLouth's two-run homer carried Pittsburgh to a 9-0 home-field victory over the Brewers on Monday night.
Milwaukee's loss, its fourth in five games in Pittsburgh this season, dropped the Brewers back into a first-place tie in the NL Central with the Chicago Cubs, who beat St. Louis 12-3 earlier Monday. The Cubs had fallen a game back by losing two of three in Pittsburgh over the weekend.
Armas and relievers Franquelis Osoria and Romulo Sanchez combined on the four-hitter, blanking a team that broke loose at Cincinnati on Sunday with eight extra-base hits in a 10-5 victory.
"That's how it goes like that," Brewers manager Ned Yost said when asked how his team couldn't advance a runner past second after scoring 10 runs the day before. "He located his pitches very well, changed speeds, kept the ball down and was on the attack early in the count."
Armas (4-5), winless until Aug. 1, allowed three singles in shutting down the Brewers for his fourth victory in five career decisions against them. He has won four of his last six overall after going 0-3 during the first half of the season.
"You're seeing a very confident pitcher right now and a pitcher who's very comfortable with his pitches," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "He kept them off stride. They didn't get too many good swings against him."
The Brewers had won eight of 11 but, again, couldn't find a way to win in Pittsburgh -- they have lost 41 of 60 there since PNC Park opened in 2001, even though the Pirates have yet to have a winning season during that time.
There really is a home-field advantage when these teams play. The Brewers are 8-1 at home against the Pirates this season but have lost 13 of their last 17 and four straight in Pittsburgh.
Prince Fielder said the Brewers must learn to win close games, especially on the road, and not count on scoring a lot of runs every day. Milwaukee scored seven or more runs in five of its first eight games this month.
"We've got to bear down and go after guys because sometimes it's going to be like that," Fielder said. "If we're not going to score, sometimes we've at least got to battle to keep it close."
Asked if the Pirates deserve some credit for playing the contenders tough, Fielder said, "Right now, I don't care about credit. We've got to win."
The top three hitters in Milwaukee's lineup went 0-for-12 after getting seven hits and seven RBIs Sunday. Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy and Ryan Braun were the top three Sunday, while it was Weeks, Gabe Gross and Braun on Monday.
Carlos Villanueva (7-4), making only his third start this season, shut out Pittsburgh until rookie Nyjer Morgan singled in the fifth and scored on McLouth's 12th homer. McLouth, playing left field because Jason Bay remains out with a sore right knee, had three hits and scored three runs.
Morgan also made his second excellent catch in as many days in center field, leaping high against the wall to grab Fielder's drive to start the seventh. The ball would not have left the park if Morgan hadn't caught it, but Fielder likely would have had a double.
In the sixth, reliever Matt Wise looked to be out of the trouble after loading the bases with one out by getting pinch-hitter Josh Phelps to hit a potential double-play grounder to third. But second baseman Weeks' throw to first eluded Fielder and skipped into the stands on one bounce, with two runs scoring. Phelps was credited with one RBI.
"That's huge right there, we've got to turn that," Yost said. "This time of the year, you've got to turn that."
Pittsburgh added four runs against relievers Brian Shouse and Seth McClung in the seventh on RBI singles by Adam LaRoche and rookie Steve Pearce, Ronny Paulino's run-scoring double and Jack Wilson's sacrifice fly.
Pearce began the season at Class A Lynchburg, but has driven in a combined 116 runs with four teams while advancing through every level of the Pirates' farm system since April. He is hitting .313 with Pittsburgh. Morgan, who missed half the season with a thumb injury, is hitting .257 in 10 games but has been exceptional in the field.
"They're making the statement, `I could have been here sooner,' and from the way they're playing you'd have to say, `You're right," Tracy said. "He (Pearce) plays like he belongs in the big leagues. The kid can hit, he knows he can hit and nobody is going to tell him any differently."