MILWAUKEE — Jimmy Nelson followed up one of his worst starts of the season with one of his best.
And he did it against one of baseball's hottest teams.
"Obviously, I was better than in my last couple of outings but the biggest thing, I think, was that first inning 4-spot," Nelson said. "Any time that happens, it really helps you to relax and settle in."
Nelson (11-10) defeated the Pirates for the fourth time in five starts this season. He gave up four hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out six.
"Even in the minor leagues and college, there are just some teams you throw well against," Nelson said. "They're a very good team and it seems like they're always hot when they face us."
Nelson rebounded from a rough outing at Cleveland last Wednesday when he gave up five runs and four hits and walked eight batters in 3 1-3 innings in taking the loss.
"You'd rather have no walks and give up a few more hits here and there because sometimes a lot of those hits can turn into outs," Nelson said.
He threw strikes on 72 of his 101 pitches.
"He just really pounded the strike zone," manager Craig Counsell said.
The Brewers collected four consecutive hits in the first off Cole (15-8). Ryan Braun drove in a run with a single and Adam Lind drove in two with a double as Milwaukee grabbed a 3-0 lead before Cole retired a batter. Jean Segura drove in another run in the inning on a two-out infield hit.
Jonathan Lucroy's run-scoring single extended Milwaukee's lead to 5-0 in the second. Cole had surrendered five earned runs in a game only once before this season, on June 24, against Cincinnati.
Cole lasted four innings, his shortest outing of the season. He gave up five runs and eight hits. He walked one and struck out two.
"We stuck to our approach to get a good pitch to hit early in the count," Milwaukee second baseman Scooter Gennett said.
While Cole struggled, Nelson cruised. He retired 10 straight before Jung Ho Kang led off the fifth with a double and then scored on Neil Walker's single.
Pedro Alvarez hit a leadoff home run in the eighth to cut the lead to 5-2.
The Brewers added two runs in the eighth. Aramis Ramirez and Kang hit back-to-back homers in the ninth.
Francisco Rodriquez recorded the final out for his 32nd save in 33 tries.
Pirates: OF Jaff Decker, LHP Bobby LaFromboise and C Elias Diaz were recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. The club selected the contracts of RHP Radhames Liz and OF Travis Snider from Indianapolis.
Brewers: Counsell said that RHP Zach Davies likely will be the only call-up until Triple-A Colorado Springs finishes its season next Monday.
Ramirez played his first game at Miller Park since being traded to Pittsburgh from Milwaukee on July 23. Ramirez was in his fourth season with the Brewers before being shipped to the team for which he broke into the major leagues in 1998. Ramirez's went 0 for 3 against Nelson before homering off reliever David Goforth. "You can tell when you see those lazy popups to right field or breaking bats like I did, that means a pitcher's got a pretty good sinker going," Ramirez said of Nelson.
Pirates: RHP Rob Scahill has been recalled from his rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis and reinstated from the 15-day DL. To make room on the 40-man roster, the club has reinstated RHP Casey Sadler from the minor league DL, recalled him to Pittsburgh and placed him on the 60-day DL with a right elbow strain.
Brewers: Domingo Santana was hit by a pitch for the second time in as many games. A fastball from Radhames Liz struck Santana in the left calf. On Sunday, he was hit above the left elbow.
Pirates: Jeff Locke (7-8, 4.46 ERA) is 4-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 10 career starts against Milwaukee. He's 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA in three starts this year versus the Brewers.
Brewers: Zach Davies will be making his major league debut. Milwaukee acquired the right-hander from Baltimore on July 31 for OF Gerardo Parra. He was 1-2 with a 5.00 ERA in five starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs. "I really don't think in your first big-league start it's necessarily who you're facing, it's how you handle how you feel," Counsell said. "It's real different because it's that first start. And you've realized the dream."