PITTSBURGH — While a few key players in the NL playoff picture took a night off Monday, Brewers left-hander Brent Suter got in a little extra work.
Suter pitched five efficient innings, Ryan Braun homered and Milwaukee beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-0 to gain ground in its playoff chase.
Milwaukee pulled within 3 1/2 games of the Cubs in the NL Central and two games behind the Rockies for the final NL wild card. Chicago and Colorado were both off Monday.
"Every game, every series is more magnified this time of year," second baseman Neil Walker said. "You try not to look around. Obviously, you know where you are in the standings, but when you're playing on a night when the teams you're chasing are not playing and you can pick up a half a game, that's always important."
Suter allowed five hits and struck out four, throwing just 64 pitches before handing off to the bullpen. The former Harvard pitcher hadn't thrown more than three innings in a game since coming off the disabled list Sept. 1
"I was hoping to get through five, given that the last couple I was only able to go three," Suter said. "Luckily I was able to do that."
Five relievers split the final four innings, with Corey Knebel pitching the ninth for his 36th save in 41 tries.
The shutout was the Brewers' 11th of the season as a team after having seven in 2016 — a big reason Milwaukee is 10 games over .500 (80-70) coming down the stretch.
"It's a sign of how our pitching program has moved forward," manager Craig Counsell said.
Braun's solo shot, his 17th of the season, came in the fourth inning off starter Jameson Taillon (7-7). Braun's homer came off a changeup that didn't break and was projected by Statcast at 429 feet into the left-field bleachers.
"Right out of the hand, I could tell it was a fat pitch," Taillon said. "I didn't want to watch it, but then I decided to watch it because it was pretty far."
In the sixth inning, Walker — a former Pirates player and Pittsburgh-area native — added on with an RBI single that ended Taillon's night.
Taillon had his last turn in the rotation skipped after a poor start Sept. 7 and rebounded by giving up two runs and six hits in five innings. Taillon walked one and struck out four.
Travis Shaw hit an RBI single to score Walker in the eighth. It was Shaw's team-leading 96th RBI this year. Braun, Shaw and Walker each had two hits.
The Pirates have been shuffling seven starting pitchers through their rotation in September and are only announcing their starting pitchers one series at a time. In order to alleviate the crunch, rookie Tyler Glasnow will come out of the bullpen on Wednesday in a piggyback role behind starter Steven Brault.
Brewers: OF Domingo Santana (back strain) did not play, but Counsell said he should play Tuesday.
Pirates: C Francisco Cervelli (left quad irritation) will be shut down for the remainder of the season. Cervelli hasn't played since Aug. 25. He also missed time this year with a concussion and a wrist injury. ... OF Starling Marte (left shoulder, finger) did not play. He was injured sliding into second base on Wednesday.
Brewers: Chase Anderson (10-3, 2.88 ERA) will make his 23rd start of the season. He is 2-0 with a 2.43 ERA in two starts against the Pirates this year.
Pirates: Trevor Williams (6-8, 4.26) is schedule to start. His 105 strikeouts are fifth among National League rookies.