PITTSBURGH -- Mike Fiers was more excited about his rally-starting bunt single than he was about pitching effectively into the seventh inning.
Fiers (7-6) tied a career high with 10 strikeouts, Aramis Ramirez had a go-ahead three-run double in the seventh and the Milwaukee Brewers held on to win their fourth consecutive game, 6-5 over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
He allowed three runs on five hits in 6 2-3 innings. The rookie's first major-league hit provided the Brewers the first baserunner of what was a four-run Milwaukee seventh.
"Every game, I've been going up there and not hitting the ball," Fiers said, "so I thought I had to try something different. I looked down to third and saw (third baseman Pedro Alvarez) was playing back and I just wanted to something different than striking out.
"Crazy things happen when pitchers get on base."
Fiers was retired on a fielder's choice, but after Rickie Weeks was hit by a pitch and Ryan Braun walked, Ramirez lined a double deep into the gap in right-centre to give the Brewers a 5-2 lead.
"I've always believed my job is to drive in runs," said Ramirez, who was 2 for 4 and scored two runs. "That's why I've always hit in the middle of the lineup. You can hit .300 but if you don't drive in runs then it doesn't really matter."
After his hit, Ramirez scored on a Corey Hart single. Hart went 3 for 4.
The Pirates rallied for two runs in the ninth off of closer John Axford, but Kameron Loe struck out pinch hitter Gaby Sanchez to with two men on to end the game. Loe's save was his second in two weeks, the fourth of his career.
Rod Barajas homered for the floundering Pirates, who have lost four in a row and continue to sink in the NL playoff race.
The Brewers won on the road for only the second time since the All-Star break. They had lost 14 of their previous 15 road games.
Jim Henderson got the final out of the seventh and Francisco Rodriguez worked a perfect eighth, but Axford failed in his attempt to earn a save for the third consecutive Brewers game.
Axford walked Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones before Neil Walker's RBI single. After Axford struck out Pedro Alvarez and Jeff Clement, pinch hitter Michael McKenry's single scored Jones. That caused Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke to summon Loe.
"Fortunately, I had a pretty good cushion," Axford said. "I felt fantastic, and the positive I take out of this is I felt better facing the last three hitters than the first three."
Fiers opened the game with three perfect innings, but the first three Pirates of the fourth inning had hits. McCutchen's two-run single scored Jose Tabata and Travis Snider. Barajas' hit his ninth home run with nobody on in the seventh, chasing Fiers from the game.
"It was a really nice outing for him," Roenicke said. "The off-speed pitch was good, the curveball was good and he really kept them off balance."
Milwaukee scored the game's first two runs in the second off of Wandy Rodriguez. After RBI hits by Hart and Jonathan Lucroy, the Brewers loaded the bases with no outs but did not score any more runs.
Rodriguez (8-13) fell to 0-4 as a starter with the Pirates -- he earned a win by pitching the 18th and 19th innings Sunday in St. Louis -- since being acquired for three prospects in a trade with Houston July 24.
Rodriguez allowed three runs on six hits and four walks in 6 2-3 innings. He had three strikeouts.
"I felt pretty good tonight," Rodriguez said. "I had better location this start because my last start I missed a lot on my location. Today I felt more control with my location."
Barajas went 2 for 3 and has four hits over his past two starts.
Pittsburgh fell two games behind St. Louis in the race for the NL's second wild card spot. The Pirates have lost 14 of their past 21.
Notes: McCutchen was slow to get up and was attended to by a trainer for several minutes after sliding into the wall in right-centre making a running effort to catch Ramirez's double. McCutchen remained in the game. ... Earlier Friday, the Pirates selected the contract of first baseman Clement from Triple-A Indianapolis and optioned INF Yamaico Navarro to the minors. Clement's appearance was his first in the majors since Aug. 20, 2010. ... Also Friday, Pittsburgh claimed LHP Hisanori Takahashi off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels. A corresponding roster move will be made when Takahashi reports to the team. ... The Brewers activated RHP Shaun Marcum from the disabled list Friday. He will make his first start since June 14 on Saturday. RHP Jeff Karstens is scheduled to start for the Pirates. Karstens is 0-5 in his career against Milwaukee.