PITTSBURGH (AP) - A whiteboard tucked in a corner of the Pittsburgh Pirates' clubhouse early Tuesday afternoon read ``own September.'
By the time the team walked off the field after a 6-0 loss to Milwaukee several hours later, the message was erased.
The Pirates' pursuit of a playoff spot might be next.
Weary from a late night in Chicago, overwhelmed by streaking Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo and unable to control Milwaukee on the base paths, Pittsburgh fell to 4-12 this month to take another step back in the playoff chase. The Pirates are one game over .500 (74-73) with two weeks left in the season as they vie for the franchise's first winning season in two decades.
A.J. Burnett (15-8) did his part, overcoming a shaky start to give up just two runs over six innings. Still, it wasn't enough to stop the Pirates from dropping to 4-12 this month to fall 3 1-2 games back of St. Louis for the National League's second wild card spot.
``We haven't been playing the way we've wanted to play lately,' Burnett said. ``We're still coming in with the attitude that we're in this thing.'
Not for long, however, if the Pirates can't find a way to beat streaking Milwaukee. The Brewers have won five straight over Pittsburgh, one of the reasons they've made up nine games against the Pirates over the last month.
Having a pitcher as red-hot as Gallardo helps. The right-hander struck out six and walked four to win his eighth straight decision.
``Yo's on a roll that he goes out there and he throws up a lot of zeroes,' said Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke.
Ryan Braun had two hits, drove in a run and had three of Milwaukee's seven stolen bases, the most by the franchise since it moved to the National League in 1998. Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy had three hits apiece for the Brewers.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle had no issue with the way Milwaukee ran wild.
``If you don't like'em stealing bases,' he said, ``get'em out.'
While the Pirates have stumbled, the Brewers have surged. Milwaukee trailed Pittsburgh by nine games during its last visit to PNC Park in late August, though Pittsburgh appeared to at least get some stability on Monday night during a 3-0 win in Chicago.
The Pirates waited out rain delay of more than three hours before taking care of the Cubs and didn't get home until 5:40 a.m. Hurdle let his players arrive later than usual to the ballpark. The extra rest didn't help.
Gallardo has thrived as the team's No. 1 starter since Zack Greinke was traded to the Los Angeles Angels. The right-hander had little trouble extending his hot streak against the Pirates, who appeared only eager to get back home and crawl in bed.
The Brewers escaped a bases-loaded two-out jam in the second when Gallardo got Burnett to ground out to second.
Pittsburgh didn't get another base runner until the seventh, and by then Milwaukee had raced to a 4-0 lead.
The night followed a similar theme. The Brewers would get on base with a single - all 13 of their hits were singles - then get into scoring position by taking off for second at the first opportunity.
Eventually, the greed turned into runs.
During one sequence in the seventh, Weeks singled with one out then stole second and raced home on a single by Braun. The reigning NL MVP then stole second and came home on a single up the middle by Lucroy to make it 4-0.
``We've got a lot of guys who can steal bases, and if you rely on the homer, you really get yourself in trouble, so you try to find a way to manufacture runs sometimes, too,' Braun said.
Pittsburgh briefly had a chance to get back in it in the bottom of the inning, using a single, an error and a walk to load the bases. Gallardo gave way to reliever Jonathan Henderson, who got pinch-hitter Mike McKenry to pop to shallow right field.
Milwaukee tacked on two more runs in the eighth, sparked by a single and stolen base by Gomez. It was the seventh of the night for the Brewers, the most since the club joined the NL and the second most in team history. The team record for stolen bases in a single game is eight set against the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 28, 1992.
That's the same year the Pirates won the NL East, the last time the franchise finished with a winning record.
Six weeks ago, it appeared Pittsburgh's streak of 19 straight losing seasons would end when the Pirates moved 16 games over .500 on Aug. 6. They're just 12-27 since.
NOTES: The series continues on Wednesday with Milwaukee's Marco Estrada (3-6, 3.77 ERA) facing Pittsburgh's Kyle McPherson (0-0, 1.54 ERA), who will be making his first major league start ... The Pirates reached a two-year agreement with the Jamestown Jammers of the New York-Penn League for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved