MILWAUKEE — Brewers manager Craig Counsell says every day is going to be difficult during the final two weeks of the regular season, and the Pittsburgh Pirates showed why.
Jesus Aguilar and Domingo Santana hit back-to-back home runs to begin the ninth inning for Milwaukee, but the NL wild-card leaders couldn't complete the rally and lost 3-2 on Sunday.
"You've got to bring it every day," Counsell said. "It's a good message for us the rest of the season — every day's a tough day. We're treating it like that."
The Brewers remained 2 1/2 games behind Chicago in the NL Central after the Cubs' 2-1 loss to Cincinnati. Milwaukee leads the NL wild-card chase by three games over Los Angeles and St. Louis.
"We're not trying to think about that," Aguilar said. "All we can control right now is going out there and winning games. We can't worry about what anybody else is doing."
Pirates starter Trevor Williams (13-9) pitched six scoreless innings. Milwaukee hadn't scored in 16 straight innings before Aguilar's shot into the left-field bleachers off closer Felipe Vazquez to lead off the ninth.
Santana followed with a home run on the next pitch. But Vazquez settled down from there to convert his 24th consecutive save and 34th overall this season. Ryan Braun struck out, Mike Moustakas popped out weakly and Erik Kratz grounded out to end it.
"That game gets away from a lot of closers," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "But it didn't get away from ours."
Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin (14-8) was moved up in the rotation because of his past success against Pittsburgh. But, without any run support, it didn't matter.
"It's frustrating," Chacin said. "We have to find a way to beat the Pirates."
Milwaukee is 5-11 against Pittsburgh this season and has scored three runs or less in 10 of those games.
Meanwhile, Williams sparkled again. After a so-so first-half, he is 6-2 with a 1.19 ERA in 10 second-half starts. He struck out seven while scattering two hits and two walks and has allowed just one run in 13 innings against Milwaukee.
"To be able to get a series win against a good division rival this late in the year is good for us," Williams said. "It is good for us to carry this momentum into our final home stand."
Pittsburgh will remain a major factor in who ultimately wins the NL Central with three more games at home against Milwaukee beginning Friday and a four-game trip to Chicago starting Sept. 24.
"We've got a tough schedule to finish out the year," said Williams, who has given up one run over 13 innings against Milwaukee this season. "I think for us collectively we just have to play the best ball that we are able to."
Christian Yelich's NL-best streak of reaching base safely ended at 30 games with an 0-for-4 performance for Milwaukee.
Pirates: C Elias Diaz (right hamstring) could return to action as soon as Monday against Kansas City. . Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is scheduled to undergo cervical neck surgery this week. Justin Meccage will serve as interim pitching coach.
Brewers: Counsell says he's not concerned with Chacin's workload, which now stands at 178 innings. With two more projected starts this season, Chacin will finish just shy of his career high of 197 1/3 innings in 2013.
Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove (6-9, 3.87 ERA) leads Pittsburgh into an interleague matchup with the Kansas City Royals.
Brewers: Wade Miley (4-2, 2.23) gets the nod to begin a three-game series with Cincinnati.
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