MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Brewers have arrived on Cloud No. 9.
Red-hot Milwaukee won for a ninth consecutive time Sunday, sweeping the Pirates out of Miller Park with a 4-1 victory led by a razor-sharp Kyle Lohse, whose 100-pitch, nine-strikeout performance was the picture of efficiency over 8 2/3 innings.
Lohse allowed one run on four singles and no walks, throwing 76 pitches for strikes and leading his team to a 10-2 record (best in baseball) in just two hours and 11 minutes. When he allowed a two-out single to Andrew McCutchen in the ninth, manager Ron Roenicke was met with a smattering of boos as he sauntered out to take the ball.
"Sometimes the decisions aren't very popular, but they're decisions as a manager you need to make," Roenicke said. "I thought Kyle pitched a great game and I was hoping he could get through it, but I didn't want to force him and I didn't want to push him.
"I think he understands. When you get to 100 pitches, that starts to put pressure on a pitcher and we've got a long season to go."
Will Smith made the manager look plenty smart, throwing three pitches -- all strikes -- to whiff Pedro Alvarez, end the game and record his first Major League save.
Lohse looked stronger as the game went on. He threw just 12 pitches in the seventh inning and 12 more in the eighth -- 11 strikes in both -- and struck out five of the six batters he saw. Prior to McCutchen, he had retired 14 straight batters.
"The bottom line is we've got to win that game and just keep the momentum going," Lohse said when asked about missing out on the complete game. "If that guy gets on, then it turns into the tying run [at the plate], and you just want to stop it before you get there. I know Ron talked about his numbers against lefties. I want to finish it, but if I want to finish it, then I've got to get that guy out, McCutchen. But it's not going to take away from how I feel about the game."
Lohse, who also laid down a sacrifice bunt that helped plate a run in the third, continued to pitch well even after he was hit by a Charlie Morton pitch in the fifth.
"It hurt," Lohse said. "It's a good thing it got me where it did. Otherwise, it might have blown up my kneecap because it was just above it. It wasn't anything different after that. They were swinging through some good pitches and I was just really executing well there for a stretch. Really, the whole game was early on getting the fastball and the slider, but it was after those innings I got everything else going and kept it rolling."
Aramis Ramirez improved to 9-for-12 with runners in scoring position (.750) when he plated Ryan Braun with a go-ahead single in the fourth against Morton (0-1). Braun hit an opposite-field double leading off the frame, and the quick offense picked up Lohse (2-1) after he surrendered his only run in the top half of the frame.
Milwaukee tacked on two insurance runs on a major Pirates miscue in the sixth. With runners at second and third, Scooter Gennett struck out on a ball in the dirt for the second out. When he tried to advance to first, Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez sailed the throw into right field. Both runners scored, and Gennett ended up at third.
"I blew open with the front shoulder, kind of rushed it," Sanchez said. "I butchered a routine play, and that can't happen in that situation. ... In a one-run ballgame, it's hard enough to tie it up, then you put your team down three runs to a guy like Lohse, how on he was … it wasn't a good recipe."
"I think anytime you play good baseball and are doing things right, you seem to get more breaks," Roenicke said. "When we're not playing well, I know it goes the other way. You see it all the time. Everything is going good. The bullpen is nice to have back there knowing there are three, four, five guys and they're all doing their job. The starter went really deep today, which was nice. We had a couple of guys off in the bullpen tonight, so it was nice for Kyle to get deep."
Continuing the theme of efficiency, Smith made quick work of the lone batter the bullpen saw Sunday.
"Just right time, right situation, lefty coming up," Smith said. "What those starting five have done for us to start the season has been unbelievable. They've been throwing the ball well and keeping us in games."
The Brewers improved their Major League-best bullpen ERA to 0.82, holding opponents to a .153 batting average.
"We have a lot of fun down there. But when the phone rings, it's time to go to work. It's business time," Smith said. "Winning is always fun, it just happens to be nine in a row. Even if we do lose one, we'll come back the next day and get right back out there."
Lohse retired the first nine men he faced, then allowed a leadoff single to Starling Marte, who scored just ahead of the throw on a sacrifice fly by McCutchen two batters later. In the third, Milwaukee grabbed a 1-0 lead when Martin Maldonado doubled in just his second game of the season, moved to third on the Lohse bunt and scored on a Carlos Gomez sac fly.
The Brewers made two highlight-reel defensive plays in the first and second innings. Jean Segura dove for a ball in the hole at shortstop and recovered to throw out McCutchen, and Logan Schafer flagged down an Alvarez fly ball just before colliding with the left-field wall.
"Schaf going into the wall like that, that's huge when you get that," Lohse said. "That would have been leading off the second inning. That's normally a double and you have some work to do. It was a good couple of plays that kept me rolling and kept the pitch count down."
Brewers starters have compiled nine quality starts in 12 outings.
"It's kind of a friendly competition against each other," Lohse said. "You see what the guy in front of you did and, 'Alright, you think that was good? Let me see what we can do here.' That's what we knew we had in Spring Training. When we signed Matt [Garza], we knew we had five guys that could go out there and do that kind of thing. We just have to keep executing one at a time. We have a good mentality right now."
The nine-game winning streak matched the run registered last April by the Brewers, though last year the streak began after Milwaukee opened the season 2-8 and included a majority of home games, whereas this year's streak began with a 6-0 road trip. The Brewers will bring the best record in baseball into a three-game series at home against St. Louis, starting Monday.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.