Hours after the National League Central-leading Cubs won at Wrigley Field, the second-place Brewers took care of their own business 90 miles north, beating the Pirates, 6-3, in front of the 20th consecutive sellout crowd at Miller Park to remain 4 1/2 games out in the division and alone atop the Wild Card standings.
The Brewers did it on Saturday in businesslike fashion, getting a home run and three RBIs from Ryan Braun on the way to a 6-0 lead on Pirates starter Tom Gorzelanny (6-8). They held on behind starter Jeff Suppan (9-7) and relievers Brian Shouse and Salomon Torres (25th save) to climb 20 games over .500 for the first time since the end of a 92-win 1992 season.
"It's never routine," said Torres, who has already bested his 24 total saves for the Pirates from 2006-2007. "You don't want to get into [that] mode, because a true professional treats every game the same.
"To the fans, it may look like something easy because we've been doing it day in and day out. But nothing is easy; it requires a lot of work. What we're doing right now is not a product of fortune or a product of luck. We are talented enough to do this and more."
Braun, for one, does not mind that the Brewers have not given their fans much late-inning drama on the homestand. The team is 4-1 since returning from the West Coast while outscoring the Astros and Pirates, 32-17.
"That's a good thing, when there's not a lot of excitement and [the score] is in our favor," Braun said. "It's nice that everybody is contributing. It makes it a lot easier for us, individually."
Prince Fielder finished with two hits and two RBIs, including a run-scoring single in Milwaukee's two-run first inning against Gorzelanny, who was pitching in the Majors for the first time since he allowed seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings at Miller Park on July 4. This time, Gorzelanny was charged with six runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Braun helped the Brewers start to pull away in the fourth, when Gorzelanny threw a high, inside fastball to Braun on a 1-and-1 pitch that registered 90 mph on the stadium radar gun. Two pitches later, Braun deposited his team-best 32nd home run into the left-field seats.
"I know that he didn't do that intentionally, but it certainly wakes me up," Braun said. "It intensifies my focus a little bit. Obviously, whenever you get a pitch up and in or near the face at 93-94 mph, it probably makes you focus a little bit more."
Braun hit a two-run double off Gorzelanny in the fifth inning and then scored on Fielder's second RBI single of the night to extend the lead to 6-0. The Brewers improved to 28-13 against southpaw starters, a .683 winning percentage that ranks best in Major League Baseball.
The Brewers provided a nice, comfortable cushion for Suppan, who took a shutout into the sixth inning and did not walk a batter in his seven-plus innings of work. He was charged with three runs on eight hits, improving to 4-0 with a 3.09 ERA in five August starts.
Since returning from a stint on the disabled list because of a sore elbow, Suppan has pitched at least six innings in all seven of his starts and has pitched at least seven innings in five of those games.
"As a competitor, you try to go out there and say, 'No, it wasn't a factor,'" Suppan said. "But I think it was creeping in there. It wasn't allowing me to put finish on my pitches, and for me, movement is very important, [as is] location. I was able to get that rest I needed and do the necessary rehab to come back."
The Pirates' leadoff man reached against Suppan in each of the first four innings and in seven of the first eight innings before Suppan was replaced by Shouse with a runner at second base and no outs in the eighth. But Pittsburgh leadoff hitter Nyjer Morgan was picked off second base in the first inning, Suppan initiated double plays in the second and the fifth and third baseman Bill Hall make a key play on Morgan's line drive in the third inning to keep the Bucs off the board.
The Pirates finally scored in the sixth, when Morgan hit a ground-rule double down the left-field line, where a fan tumbled over the wall to retrieve the baseball. Before that happened, Morgan had paused after rounding first base, apparently content with a single.
"I was trying to take the ball from him because I think we still had a play at second base," Braun said. "I don't think [the fan] should have been kicked out. He didn't realize it was a fair ball."
Braun briefly considered how those keeping score would have noted the play, had it been possible to make.
"I was hoping we were going to have the 'relay from fan to seven to four' for the first putout ever like that," Braun joked.
Morgan was granted second base because of the interference, and he scored after a pair of groundouts. Adam LaRoche made it 6-2 with a solo home run to center field. The Brewers will play for a three-game sweep on Sunday, when Miller Park will be packed for CC Sabathia's 10th Brewers start and J.J. Hardy Bobblehead Day. The team will try to continue rolling.
"It's easy because everybody is contributing," Braun said. "It all starts with starting pitching, and our starting pitching has been unbelievably consistent. Our guys are going deep into games and keeping us in games. It doesn't put too much pressure on one or two guys."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less