PITTSBURGH -- While the armchair general managers implore Brewers GM David Stearns to go shopping for a starting pitcher at next month's non-waiver Trade Deadline, Freddy Peralta returned to a Major League mound Tuesday and delivered the case for filling that need from within.
Peralta began his second stint in the big leagues the same way he began his first: by pitching a gem. In a 3-2 win over the Pirates at PNC Park fueled by Jesus Aguilar's three RBIs, Peralta fired fastballs for 78 of 99 pitches over six scoreless innings and held Pittsburgh to two hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.
In his first three big league starts -- a 13-strikeout win at Colorado on Mother's Day followed by a loss at Minnesota six days later and then Tuesday's return in place of the injured Zach Davies -- Peralta has 25 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings.
In his two victories, Peralta has scattered three singles and two walks with 20 strikeouts in 11 2/3 scoreless frames.
And between his stints in the big leagues, Peralta posted a 1.48 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Colorado Springs, including a near-no-hitter on June 5 and an 11-strikeout performance on June 10.
"Man, it's impressive. It makes me think about what I was doing back when I was  years old, you know what I'm saying?" said Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress, a former first-round Draft pick who took a more turbulent path to the Majors. "Good for him. He's a great guy, everybody loves him.
"As long as he stays right there, he will be a phenomenal pitcher for years to come."
As Pirates manager Clint Hurdle put it after watching Peralta find success at the top of the strike zone: "He pitched a lot taller than he was, height-wise. Man, he got after it."
While the Brewers' No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline was keeping the Pirates off-balance in Pittsburgh, Davies was making the first start of his latest rehab assignment in the Minors. Davies, coming back from a right rotator cuff injury, will get at least three such starts, so the Brewers will need a fifth starter again on Sunday at home against the Cardinals.
Peralta will get that assignment, Brewers manager Craig Counsell confirmed. It will be Peralta's Miller Park debut, and his calm demeanor is likely to come in handy.
"A 21-year-old that reaches the big leagues," said Counsell, referring to Peralta's age at the time of his May 13 debut, "has already crossed a whole bunch of hurdles. He's been the youngest player on his team, and young for his league. He's established poise."
Said Peralta: "I felt normal, you know? Always working."
The Brewers' offense came early from first baseman Aguilar, who hit a two-run homer off Pirates starter Jameson Taillon with one out in the first inning and knocked an RBI double off Taillon with one out in the third. Since the date of his first home run of the season on April 21, Aguilar has hit 14 of them to lead all National League hitters.
"I think it's important, especially for Peralta, to give him the lead right away," Aguilar said. "It made it easier on him."
The Pirates made it a game in the late innings with a pair of two-out run-scoring hits off Jeffress, including Starling Marte's homer in the eighth, which cut Pittsburgh's deficit to 3-2. But Brewers closer Corey Knebel worked around a two-out walk in the ninth for his seventh save.
"We were fighting out there for a while," Jeffress said. "They definitely got a lot smarter. I think they're the lowest strikeout team in the league. They put good at-bats against everybody."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Jeffress vs. Meadows: The Pirates rallied against Brewers relievers Dan Jennings and Jeffress in the seventh inning after Peralta left the game. Jordy Mercer's RBI double off Jeffress cut Milwaukee's lead to 3-1 and brought pinch-hitter Austin Meadows to the plate with the tying runner in scoring position. Jeffress thought he struck out Meadows on a 1-2 pitch off the inside corner and started walking to the dugout before realizing it was called ball two. Meadows fouled off the next two pitches before swinging over a nasty splitter for an inning-ending whiff.
"They had some really good at-bats in the seventh," Counsell said. "Josh Bell had a good at-bat against Jennings, [Gregory] Polanco had a good at-bat against Jennings, where they just kept spoiling pitches. … I give them some credit in the seventh inning."
Added Jeffress: "You have to go into the next pitch. Do your strengths. Go back at him. You can't worry about it."
Thames tested: Counsell started Christian Yelich in left field and Eric Thames in right because PNC Park's cavernous left field seemed a better fit for the more fleet-footed of the two. It was Thames' first start of the season in right field, and he snapped the Brewers' six-game errorless streak when he dropped a Marte fly ball with two outs in the first inning. Thames recovered after that, however, converting every chance that came his way, including two more deep drives from Marte.
"Look, we need him out there," Counsell said. "With trying to get [Aguilar] and Eric into the lineup at times, it's important that Eric does a nice job out there. Having experiences, to me, is good."
After Jeffress stranded 18 of 20 inherited baserunners in the first two months of the season, five of six have scored in June. But even with Marte's home run, Jeffress is still having a sparkling season. It pushed his ERA all the way up to 0.76.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Never mind the baseball. One Pirates fan let his 24-ounce can of cold beer slip from his grasp on a costly Corey Dickerson popup over the Brewers' dugout in the sixth inning. The spray sent Brewers scattering down below as catcher Manny Pina raised his hand in faux disappointment at the man, who was interviewed on the Pirates' television broadcast an inning later.
"I just got maybe a drop," Counsell said. "I think [bench coach Pat Murphy] got it pretty good and [assistant hitting coach] Jason Lane got it pretty good. I didn't get it too bad. I saw they made a nice production out of it." More >
HE SAID IT
"I don't know what he's throwing, but it looks like it's uncomfortable for hitters. I was talking with their left fielder [Dickerson], and he told me he's sneaky and he throws cutters. Really sneaky, is what he said. You see the velo and it's between 93-94 [mph], and he's got everybody late. When he comes in throwing strikes, it's going to be tough for the hitters." -- Aguilar, on Peralta
Coming off a career-high-tying seven innings against the Phillies and boasting a 5-1 record with a 3.24 ERA over his last six starts, Brent Suter is scheduled to take the mound for Wednesday's 6:05 p.m. CT series finale against the Pirates. He'll pitch opposite Pittsburgh right-hander Chad Kuhl, who is 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA in six career starts against Milwaukee -- all Pirates wins.