PITTSBURGH — On many nights, Donovan Hand might have been celebrating his first major league victory.
The Milwaukee Brewers' rookie right-hander turned in to a solid five-inning effort in his second career start Saturday night, giving up solo home runs to Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones in a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hand (0-1), who gave up five hits while striking out two and walking none. That came after he blanked Atlanta for 4 2-3 innings in his first major-league start June 21.
"Other than the home runs, I felt good about the way I pitched," Hand said. "I kept us in the ballgame for five and gave us a chance to win and we got beat 2-1. You tip your hat to them — they've got a good bullpen and (Francisco) Liriano threw the ball well. I tried to counter. Two pitches. If I had 'em back, maybe it's a different story."
Liriano pitched six strong innings to help the surging Pirates win their eighth straight.
Alvarez hit his 20th home run with one out in the second inning to extend his hitting streak to 12 games and help the Pirates to their longest winning streak since 2004. Pittsburgh, which has endured 20 consecutive losing seasons, is a major league-best 50-30.
Jones hit a drive to the shrubbery in straightaway center field, his seventh homer, to lead off the fourth inning and increase the Pirates' lead to 2-0.
Hand made a good impression on Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.
"I thought Donny threw the ball really well," Roenicke said. "He understands how to pitch, he understands how to throw strikes. And then the bullpen continues to pitch well."
Brandon Kintzler, John Axford and Jim Henderson each pitched one scoreless inning of relief but it wasn't enough as Yuniesky Betancourt's RBI single in the sixth was the only offense the Brewers could muster.
"We've got to get big hits," Roenicke said.
Two runs were enough for Liriano (7-3), who improved to 4-1 in five home starts this season.
"We're having fun, we're playing hard and we're giving everything we have," he said.
Liriano gave up one run and seven hits in six innings with one walk and six strikeouts. Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and Grilli each pitched one scoreless inning of relief. Grilli recorded his 27th save in 28 opportunities.
"Frankie, for as efficient as he was in giving up one run, there were only about six or seven sequences where he threw back-to-back strikes," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "But when he needed to make a pitch, he made a pitch."
Carlos Gomez had two hits for the Brewers, who lost their fifth straight game.
Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura extended his hitting streak to 11 games, but second baseman Rickie Weeks' run ended at a career-best 13 games.
The last-place Brewers dropped to 17½ games behind the Pirates in the NL Centra.
Pittsburgh has won four straight games against Milwaukee and eight of 10 after losing nine in a row.
"There's another end to this tunnel," Hand said. "We've just got to find our way there and get a couple guys healthy."
NOTES: Milwaukee LF Ryan Braun (bruised left thumb) is scheduled to a swing a bat Tuesday for the first time since going on the disabled list, retroactive to June 10. ... Brewers RF Norichika Aoki didn't start for the first time since May 30 as Roenicke decided to rest him. Aoki pinch-hit in the ninth inning and flied out. ... The three-game series concludes Sunday with Milwaukee RHP Kyle Lohse (3-6, 3.69) facing Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton (1-1, 2.81).