PITTSBURGH — A.J. Burnett knew the Milwaukee Brewers were going to run whenever they got the chance. So did catcher Mike McKenry. And manager Clint Hurdle. And just about everybody else on the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Burnett tried to hold runners on first. He attempted pickoffs at second. He worked quickly. He even pitched out on occasion.
It didn't matter. The Brewers stole a season-high six bases while rolling to a 5-1 win on Monday night to end Pittsburgh's three-game winning streak.
"I did what I could," Burnett said. "Mike did what he could. It's not for not trying. They're going to run on everything and when you have speed most of the time it's going to play in your favor. It's my fault for not keeping them off the bases."
Burnett (3-4) allowed four runs in seven innings and pushed his National League-leading strikeout total to 72, but the Pirates couldn't keep the struggling Brewers from winning for just the second time this month.
"It was hard for us to get into sync tonight in any area," Hurdle said.
That always seems to be the case against the Brewers, who have dominated the series between the clubs over the last several years.
Marco Estrada (3-2) allowed three hits over seven innings to improve to 4-0 in his career versus the Pirates. He walked one and struck out five and used every inch of PNC Park as Pittsburgh watched a handful of promising shots to the outfield die on the warning track.
"He has been and tonight was another case," Hurdle said. "He moves the ball around the plate in the strike zone. The changeup is a big pitch for him. The breaking ball is a big pitch for him. He spots it well. We haven't had a lot of success against."
Norichika Aoki went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and two stolen bases for the Brewers. Jean Segura added three hits and three stolen bases as Milwaukee ran wild against McKenry.
"It's the same as every night, we just try to stay aggressive on the basepaths and if you can go for the next base, we go for it," Aoki said. "That just showed tonight."
The Brewers came in just 1-9 in their last 10 games and played without star Ryan Braun, given the night off as a precaution after a neck issue that bothered him earlier this season against Los Angeles flared up.
Milwaukee hardly needed him, not when they were turning every single into extra bases. McKenry was thrust into the starting lineup while Russell Martin nursed a neck issue and though he has proven to be an offensive spark at times, his defense remains suspect.
McKenry allowed the New York Mets to steal four bases on Sunday, and things only got worse at the start of a 10-game homestand – all against sub-.500 teams – the Pirates hope will allow them to make inroads on streaking St. Louis in the NL Central.
The trouble started early. Aoki doubled to lead off the game and Segura reached on an infield hit. Segura promptly dashed to second even though McKenry called a pitchout. Aoki scored when Carlos Gomez's chopper to the mound skipped of Burnett's glove and rolled away.
Burnett escaped the first by allowing just the one run, but Aoki and Segura struck again in the fifth. Logan Schafer led off with a double and moved to third on Estrada's sacrifice bunt. Aoki followed with a double then swiped third and scored on a swinging bunt by Segura.
The Pirates, meanwhile, could manage nothing against Estrada, who gave Milwaukee's beleaguered pitching staff a much-needed quality start. The Brewers have the worst ERA (4.70) in the NL, a number that took a serious uptick when Estrada was shelled in his previous start, giving up eight runs in 3 1-3 innings against the Cardinals.
There were no such issues against the Pirates. The Pirates touched him for a run in the seventh on Pedro Alvarez's RBI-groundout but by then he was staked to a 4-1 lead thanks to a bumbling sequence in Burnett's final inning of work.
Schafer hit a dribbled to first to lead off the seventh but reached when Gaby Sanchez couldn't collect the ball and step on the bag. Schafer then moved to second when Burnett threw wildly to first trying to keep Schafer near the bag. One batter later Aoki dribbled a grounder that Burnett mishandled for his second error of the inning. Schafer scored and Milwaukee was firmly in control.
"Nothing really went our way out there," Burnett said.
NOTES: Pittsburgh 2B Neil Walker went hitless in four at bats after returning from the 15-day disabled list with a hand injury ... Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, is scheduled to pitch four innings for Double-A Altoona on Thursday ... The series continues Tuesday. Kyle Lohse (1-4, 3.53 ERA) starts for the Brewers against Pittsburgh's Jeff Locke (3-1, 2.95) ... Pirates closer Jason Grilli left the ballpark for a few hours Monday afternoon due to a personal issue but the NL leader in saves returned by the middle of the game.