PITTSBURGH (AP) - Maybe it was playing a day game after a night game. Perhaps it was playing a fourth game in three days on the heels of a doubleheader two nights earlier.
Whatever the reason, the Milwaukee Brewers looked sluggish Wednesday for the first time in a long time.
Aaron Thompson pitched 4 1-3 scoreless innings in his major league debut and Jason Grilli won for the first time in nearly two years as four Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers combined on a five-hitter in a 2-0 victory over the Brewers.
``We didn't swing the bats well,' Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. ``When you don't swing the bats well, you usually look sluggish. If we would have scored a couple of runs early in the game then you probably would have seen us look totally different.'
Thompson and Grilli kept the Brewers in check, then Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan closed out the shutout with one scoreless inning each, sending Milwaukee to just its fifth loss in 29 games. The Brewers maintained their 10-game lead in the NL Central over St. Louis, which lost 9-4 to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Hanrahan notched his 32nd save in 35 opportunities by striking out the side to work out of a jam. He had lost in his two previous appearances, both against Cincinnati.
Ryan Braun, who had two hits, led off the ninth with a single and Prince Fielder followed with a walk but Hanrahan snuffed the rally by striking out Casey McGehee, Yuniesky Betancourt and Jonathan Lucroy in succession.
With the Brewers trailing 2-0 in the fifth, Grilli relieved Thompson with one out and runners and second and third and escaped trouble by striking out Corey Hart and getting Jerry Hairston Jr. to ground out.
``We had a few chance but we couldn't get the run across and some of the credit has to go to the Pirates' bullpen,' Milwaukee second baseman Josh Wilson said. ``The bullpen shut us down.'
Thompson allowed four hits while walking two and striking out one. He was on a pitch count after throwing just four innings in each of his previous two minor-league starts.
Thompson, 24, had his contract purchased from Triple-A Indianapolis before the game. He was needed to fill in for All-Star right-hander Kevin Correia, who went on the disabled list Monday with a strained oblique muscle.
A first-round draft pick of the Florida Marlins in 2004, the left-handed Thompson was claimed off waivers by the Pirates from the Washington Nationals last December. He went 1-0 with a 0.77 ERA in three games, two of them starts, for Indianapolis after spending most of the season at Double-A Altoona, where he was 4-7 with a 5.16 ERA in 28 games, including 12 starts.
``I was a little nervous but it wasn't too bad,' Thompson said. ``I got here (Tuesday) so I had a chance to get used to the clubhouse and the ballpark. I was around most of the guys in spring training and they reached out and made me feel welcome. So the nerves weren't as bad as they might have been.'
Grilli earned his first win since Aug. 27, 2009, when he was pitching for Texas against the New York Yankees. He missed all last season after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery in spring training and pitched this season with Philadelphia's Triple-A Lehigh Valley farm club before being granted his release and signing with the Pirates on July 21.
The Pirates scored both runs on sacrifice flies, one by Andrew McCutchen in the first inning and the other by Neil Walker in the fourth. Jose Tabata had two of Pittsburgh's four hits.
Shaun Marcum (11-4) lost for the first time in eight starts since the All-Star break, as he gave up two runs and four hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out four.
``He grinded,' Roenicke said. ``He does a great job when he doesn't have his great command and still figures how to get out of innings.'
Tabata doubled to lead off the first, was bunted to third base by Josh Harrison and scored on McCutchen's sacrifice fly. Harrison hit a leadoff double in the fourth and scored on Walker's fly ball. 1/4
``For the most part, we made good pitches when we had too and they only got two sacrifice flies,' Marcum said. ``I made a mistake pitch to Tabata to start the game but the pitch to Harrison wasn't a bad pitch. The sac flies just got us.'
Notes: Milwaukee LHP Chris Narveson, who beat the Pirates on Monday night, will not start again until Sept. 3 at Houston because of off days in the schedule Thursday and next Monday. Narveson will work in relief until then, a role he may assume if Milwaukee reaches the postseason - it has no left-handers in the bullpen. . Brewers OF Carlos Gomez, who has been on the disabled list since July 21 with a broken left clavicle, will be examined by team doctors Friday. If cleared, Gomez will begin a rehab assignment with Class A Wisconsin on Saturday and be activated Sept. 1 when the roster limit expands from 25 to 40. . The Brewers were shut out for the 11th time this season while the Pirates have pitched 10 shutouts. . Pittsburgh placed LF Ryan Ludwick on the 15-day DL before the game with back spasms, creating a roster opening for Thompson. . Milwaukee begins a six-game homestand Friday night with the opener of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs.
The Associated Press News Service
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