PITTSBURGH — Tyler Thornburg's statistics in Triple-A were anything but pretty. He's proving to be a much more effective major leaguer.
Thornburg pitched five shutout innings of relief before the Milwaukee Brewers went on to their fifth consecutive loss, 2-1 in 14 innings to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
Pinch-hitter Russell Martin singled home Gaby Sanchez for the winning run as Pittsburgh won its ninth straight.
Thornburg is 0-9 with a 5.79 ERA in 15 starts in the minors this season but was in line for his second victory in three major-league appearances before Pittsburgh tied and later won the game.
Thornburg entered in the bottom of the second after starter Kyle Lohse was forced to leave the game because of a lengthy rain delay.
"Honestly, I was blessed to get this opportunity and fortunate to be throwing well," Thornburg said. "Luck may have a lot to do with it. I don't know what was going in Triple-A; I really can't say. I'm just glad I'm throwing well up here so far."
Thornburg has not allowed a run in nine innings over two stints with Milwaukee this season.
"This game is hard to figure out," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He has the stuff – good, live fastball, a real good curve, a real good changeup. I don't why it's been going bad for him down there but he's come up here and done a real nice job."
The Pirates extended their longest winning streak since 2004, when they took 10 in a row. Pittsburgh reached the midpoint of its season with the best record in the majors at 51-30.
"It's fun right now," Martin said. "Obviously, winning is fun, but just being on a team with a bunch of guys who play with their hearts out there and enjoy the game, it's definitely been a pleasure."
Teammates were having fun with Sanchez, a slugger not known for his speed. Sanchez led off the 14th with an infield single. With one out, he stole second for his first steal in more than a year. After a walk, Martin hit a soft liner to center off Francisco Rodriguez (1-1).
Sanchez chugged around third and slid home ahead of the throw by Carlos Gomez.
"I guess he felt fresh today for some reason," Martin said with a wry smile. "We're just grinding; he's out there grinding and made it happen and I think everybody is enjoying it."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle gave the sign for Sanchez to make an attempt for his first stolen base as a Pirate and first overall since May 6, 2012. Sanchez has 10 steals and 30 infield hits in 513 career games according to STATS.
"Once it gets late like that, you've got to take some chances," Hurdle said. "Gaby's always heads-up."
Sanchez validated the efforts of Pittsburgh's puissant bullpen, one that refers to itself as "The Shark Tank." Vin Mazzaro pitched five perfect innings. He was among six Pirates relievers who combined for 11 scoreless innings after Charlie Morton was pulled following a rain delay of 2 hours, 20 minutes.
Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris, Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon each pitched a scoreless inning following Mazzaro – allowing a total of two hits and no walks.
Tony Watson (2-1) struck out four in three hitless innings.
"A truly incredible job from everybody out there," Hurdle said.
"It feels like they all throw 110 mph, and they've all got good stuff," Brewers outfielder Logan Schafer said. "They know what they're doing. They locate their pitches for the most part and they get ahead early in the count. Those guys are very good."
Andrew McCutchen hit a tying single in the Pittsburgh eighth.
Bidding for the franchise's first winning season or playoff berth in 21 years, surprising Pittsburgh enters July with the most wins in the majors. The crowd of 35,351 was about three 3,000 shy of capacity, snapping the PNC Park-record sellout streak of five games.
The vast majority of those on hand waited out a downpour not long after Milwaukee scored an unearned run in the second inning off of Morton, making his fourth start since returning from 2012 elbow surgery.
The Pirates trailed for roughly the next four hours – after the delay, Tyler Thornburg and Mazzaro traded shutout innings – until tying it in the eighth against Jim Henderson. Starling Marte walked with one out, advanced on a groundout and came home on McCutchen's single.
The Pirates almost won it in the ninth, loading the bases against former Pittsburgh pitcher Michael Gonzalez. But pinch-hitter Brandon Inge struck out swinging to end the inning.
Pittsburgh loaded the bases again in the 13th with one out, but Rodriguez got Pedro Alvarez to ground into a 3-6-3 double play. Roenicke utilized five infielders – all playing in – for the sequence.
Martin Maldonado had three hits for Milwaukee, which got its only run when Yuniesky Betancourt came home on Schafer's bunt in the second.
"It's tough right now," Schafer said. "We're not getting a whole lot of breaks. But things will turn. They always do in this game."
NOTES: LF Schafer robbed Sanchez of a home run by reaching over the left-center field wall for a catch in the seventh. ... After the Brewers begin a four-game series in Washington on Monday, the lone NL team they will have yet to face will be the New York Mets.