MILWAUKEE -- Prince Fielder isn't used to hitting home runs that have pennant race implications.
Fielder hit his National League-leading 40th home run of the season, Bill Hall showed more signs of breaking out of a prolonged slump and rookie Ryan Braun had three hits including a homer as the Brewers powered past the Pirates 7-4 on Sunday.
"In years past, by this time, nothing really mattered," Fielder said. "It's good that every game really counts no matter who you're playing. Every game, there's a lot of intensity and every pitch counts. It's really fun."
The Brewers remained 1½ games behind the Chicago Cubs, who rallied to beat the Houston Astros. But at least manager Ned Yost's team appears to be headed in the right direction again.
"You know what? We did our part and we won today," Yost said. "And that's what we do again tomorrow."
That doesn't mean Yost and the rest of the Brewers aren't peering at the scoreboard occasionally. On the way into his postgame news Yost glanced at a television to see the Chicago score.
Brewers starter Jeff Suppan (9-11), who won for the first time since June 22 on Sunday, says he's no scoreboard watcher -- but admits he's paying close attention to the Brewers' division rivals when he's not on the mound.
"Of course you pay attention," Suppan said.
It's been a long time since they Brewers have played meaningful September games. Since moving to the NL in 1998, the Brewers (69-67) have never been above .500 on Sept. 2.
"It's a hard feeling to describe, because the wins feel so much better and the losses hurt so much more," Yost said.
And the Brewers have been hurting a lot of late, having gone 9-18 in August and 3-6 on a recent road trip that included a three-game sweep by lowly San Francisco and two losses in three games against Chicago.
But after sweeping the Pirates, the Brewers have their longest winning streak since winning four in a row July 14-17.
Fielder's two-run homer off Pirates reliever Franquelis Osoria (0-1) in the sixth put the Brewers ahead 7-4. Fielder is the fourth Brewers player to hit 40 home runs in a season; Richie Sexson hit 45 in 2003 and 2001, Gorman Thomas hit 45 in 1979 and Ben Oglivie hit 41 in 1980.
Hall broke a 4-4 tie in the fifth inning with an RBI single off of Osoria. After a 4-RBI day on Saturday, Hall finally seems to be getting hot after struggling for most of the season.
"That's a big pickup right there," Yost said. "We need Billy to get hot."
The Brewers wore out Pirates starter Tom Gorzelanny, forcing him to throw 105 pitches in four innings. Gorzelanny, who was 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his three previous starts on the road, gave up six hits and three earned runs in four innings.
"For the second day in a row, we got into our bullpen way and well before we would have liked to," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "It got us in a very tough spot."
Braun hit a two-run homer in the fourth, his 26th.
Milwaukee's offensive outburst made up for another abbreviated outing by Suppan, who has pitched seven full innings only once in his past 17 starts. He lasted five innings, allowing four runs -- two earned -- and nine hits.
"He's had three or four opportunities that we lost for him," Yost said. "So you can't really pin that on him," Yost said. "But it was good for him to get a 'W.' Now we don't have to talk about that."
Francisco Cordero pitched the ninth for his 39th save in 45 tries.
- Tracy said after the game left-hander Paul Maholm would miss his scheduled start in St. Louis on Monday because of a stiff lower back. Right-handers Ian Snell and Matt Morris each will move up one day in the rotation, and Tracy said he had not decided what he would do for Wednesday's game. Before the game, Tracy said he would not commit to putting injured pitcher Zach Duke back in the rotation after he struggled in a rehab start at Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday.
- Adam LaRoche started Saturday's game but was taken out in the fifth inning. LaRoche bruised his left knee after fouled a pitch off it in Saturday's game and is day to day.
- Brewers catcher Damian Miller left the game in the sixth inning after he strained his right calf and is day to day.