MILWAUKEE — Kyle Lohse was eager to top his Brewers teammates.
He sure came close.
Lohse came within an out of a complete game, and Milwaukee won its ninth straight, 4-1 over the Pirates on Sunday.
"We talked about it, and it is a friendly competition to see what the guy in front of you did and do it better," Lohse said of the Brewers' rotation.
That rotation has been outstanding. The starters have a combined 1.80 ERA over the first 12 games, giving up just 22 earned runs.
At 10-2, the Brewers are off to their best start since going 13-0 to open the 1987 season. This is Milwaukee's longest winning streak since a nine-game run last April.
Lohse struck out five straight in the seventh and eighth innings and retired 12 of his last 13 batters. He was pulled with two outs in the ninth after giving up a single to Andrew McCutchen.
Will Smith struck out Pedro Alvarez on three pitches to record his first career save.
Lohse said he was disappointed to be pulled one out from a complete game, but he understood the decision by manager Ron Roenicke, who said he pulled his starter because he was at 100 pitches.
"It is tough, but I understand," he said. "I've been around long enough to know that we need to win that game and keep the momentum going. I wanted to finish it, but I know that if I wanted to I needed to get that guy (McCutchen) out."
Lohse had some fine defense behind him. Shortstop Jean Segura made several tough plays, and outfielder Logan Schafer robbed Alvarez of at least a double in the second when he hauled in a long drive just before crashing into the leftfield wall.
"That was huge because normally that is a double and then I have some work to do," Lohse said.