Mike Fiers was an afterthought at the beginning of the season, a 29-year-old journeyman stuck in Triple-A.
As the pennant drive heats up, he’s become the Milwaukee Brewers stopper.
Fiers (4-1) allowed just two runs on two hits over seven innings Sunday as the Brewers salvaged the final game of their series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park, 4-3, stopping a three-game losing streak.
He walked one and struck out seven, retiring the last 10 batters he faced and is now 4-0 in four starts since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville on Aug. 9.
The Brewers (72-58) did their scoring early, getting four runs in the first two innings off Pittsburgh right-hander Vance Worley (5-4).
The Crew took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, doing all of the damage with two outs. Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez singled to put runners at the corners and Scooter Gennett followed with an infield single off third baseman Josh Harrison.
Mark Reynolds followed with a liner to center for a hit to score Ramirez.
In the top of the second, Fiers walked Pedro Alvarez with two outs before Marte connected for his ninth homer of the season.
But Milwaukee bounced back in the bottom of the frame, again courtesy of the two-out rally.
Gennett also singled to right, but Gregory Polanco’s throw to the plate beat Braun for the third out.
The starters settled in from there.
The Pirates (67-63) made it interesting against closer Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth.
Andrew McCutchen ended a 10-pitch battle with Rodriguez with a home run to left field, his 19th of the season, to make it 4-3. Martin worked a walk, but Rodriguez struck out Alvarez to end the game and pick up his 39th save, reclaiming the National League lead.
Jeremy Jeffress worked a scoreless eighth, allowing a hit and striking out one.
The Brewers had 13 hits, 12 of them in 6.1 innings off Worley. Ramirez was 3-for-4, Braun was 2-for-3 and Lucroy, Gennett and Gerardo Parra each went 2-for-4.
The St. Louis Cardinals took one on the chin in Philadelphia Sunday, 7-1, allowing the Brewers to open their lead in the NL Central back to 1½ games. The Pirates fell five games back with the loss.
Milwaukee opens a West Coast swing at 9:10 p.m. Central on Monday, visiting the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Right-hander Kyle Lohse (11-7, 3.49 ERA) returns after skipping a start because of a bad ankle and faces left-hander Eric Stults (6-13, 4.53 ERA). The Brewers will also play at San Francisco and Chicago on a nine-game road trip.