PITTSBURGH — John Buck had a nearly perfect debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night. The only problem for the backup catcher was the loss.
Buck went 3 for 3 in his first game since he was obtained in a trade with the New York Mets, but the Pirates lost 4-0 to the Milwaukee Brewers.
"It kind of gets you into the flow to have a game like this," said Buck, who got the start when manager Clint Hurdle decided to give Russell Martin the night off. "Now you feel like you're part of the team and it's exciting to be part of this team. I'm really looking forward to the St. Louis series. Games like that are what you play for."
Pittsburgh acquired Buck and outfielder Marlon Byrd on Tuesday. Byrd went 1 for 4 in his second game for the Pirates after hitting a three-run homer in Wednesday's 7-1 victory.
The Pirates fell one game behind NL Central-leading St. Louis, which was idle. The Cardinals start a three-game series at Pittsburgh on Friday night.
Buck said the Cardinals' series was a main topic of conversation when he and Byrd drove from New York to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. Buck has never been to the postseason in his 10-year career and neither has Byrd, a 12-year veteran.
"I knew they we're playing Milwaukee but we couldn't help but think how exciting the series with the Cardinals is going to be," Buck said. "That's why the Pirates went out and got us, for games like that."
The fourth-place Brewers closed out a 4-2 road trip, taking two of three at third-place Cincinnati before repeating the feat against second-place Pittsburgh.
"It was absolutely a good road trip," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We pitched great in the games we won and our offense, especially the younger guys, continued to do good things."
"And it's nice to beat the Pirates," he added. "They've beaten up a lot on us this year."
The Pirates lead the season series, 10-6.
Yovani Gallardo (10-9) allowed six hits in seven innings while improving to 11-4 in his career against the Pirates, including a 5-2 record at PNC Park.
Gallardo has given up just two earned runs in 19 1-3 innings in three starts since coming off the disabled list, including a pair of solid outings against the Reds.
Brandon Kintzler pitched the final two innings of the six-hitter.
Ramirez hit his ninth home run of an injury-marred season leading off the fourth inning, giving Milwaukee a 3-0 lead. Ramirez, who broke into the major leagues with Pittsburgh in 1998, hit his 350th career homer Tuesday in the series opener.
Pittsburgh rookie Gerrit Cole (6-7) pitched a career-high 7 1-3 innings in his 14th start. He allowed four runs and 10 hits.
"The fifth, sixth and seventh innings were as good as he's been since he got here," Hurdle said. "He did a good job of getting into a groove later in the game and Gerrit gets credit for that and Buck gets credit, too, for working him through some tough spots."
The 22-year-old Cole was pitching on seven days' rest as the Pirates continue to find spots to limit his workload. Cole has pitched a combined 153 1-3 innings between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis after working 132 last year in his first professional season.
Buck helped the young pitcher focus on the positive.
"I was a little down but he said to dwell on the fact that I pitched deep and helped save the bullpen for the St. Louis series," Cole said. "It's still not as good as a win but it helped me feel like I did something positive."
A throwing error by Cole led to a first-inning run for Milwaukee. Cole threw wildly to first on a pickoff attempt and Jean Segura advanced two bases before scoring on Jonathan Lucroy's single.
The Brewers added another run in the second when Carlos Gomez led off with a single, stole second and scored on rookie Khris Davis' double.
Lucroy drove in his second run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Scooter Gennett, a rookie second baseman, had three hits for Milwaukee, raising his batting average to .336 in 40 games. Segura and Gomez added two each.
Pittsburgh put runners in scoring position in three of the first four innings but came away empty. Gallardo then set down nine of his last 10 batters before being lifted for a pinch hitter.
NOTES: Pittsburgh LF Starling Marte, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 19 with a bruised right hand, has been swinging a bat with his left hand and may be able to start taking batting practice next week, a week earlier than planned. ... Milwaukee RF Norichika Aoki didn't start. He has been getting regular days off to rest his sore right knee. He grounded out when he hit for Gallardo. ... Pittsburgh LHP Francisco Liriano (14-6, 2.74 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday night against St. Louis RHP Shelby Miller (12-8, 2.90 ERA). ... The Brewers face the Los Angeles Angels on Friday in the opener of a three-game series, with RHP Wily Peralta (8-13, 4.51 ERA) going up against RHP Jered Weaver (8-7, 3.46 ERA).