SAN FRANCISCO -- In the 16 days before Saturday night, Brewers rookie left-hander Manny Parra had pitched 2 2/3 innings in all of one game.

Such is the life of a long reliever, especially on a team that suddenly has two.

"Having been pitching competitively and then not pitching competitively for a long time, there is a little rust in that sense," Parra said. "You feel it when you're not in the game. But once you're back on the mound, you feel at home."

That was how he felt Saturday, when Parra worked three innings of relief after starter Yovani Gallardo was knocked out. In his first appearance since Aug. 14, he surrendered a run in his first inning of work but then held the Giants scoreless for two more.

Parra did not walk a batter and surrendered three total hits. He has surrendered at least one run in each of his last five relief appearances and spent some time Sunday watching video with pitching coach Mike Maddux. Maddux's message to Parra was "keep the ball down," a problem manager Ned Yost noticed, too.

"He struggled to keep the ball down a little bit," Yost said. "Manny's got enough stuff to be able to get by with that a little bit. He made that adjustment after his first inning. After not pitching for nine or 10 days, you are going to be a little rusty."

"I did get away with some location misses [Saturday]," Parra said. "Mike is right -- if I get the ball down, I won't give up that run. Since my first outing, I've given up a run every time out."

The Brewers are trying to figure out a starting rotation for a stretch run, and Parra is one option should someone get bumped. Entering Sunday, Brewers starting pitchers had a 5.54 ERA since the All-Star break, and the team had moved lefty Chris Capuano to a long relief role following a string of losses.

In five outings since he threw 87 pitches in six innings of relief against the Mets on Aug. 1, Parra has not thrown more than 48 pitches in a game. Even he wonders how his stamina would be affected should he be called on to start.

"It's weird. Maybe because I have pitched so many innings already, it's a mental thing that I believe I can go as long as they need me to go," Parra said. "I don't go in there expecting to pitch two innings. When I do, you feel like you were barely even out there.

"I know they are trying to do what's best for me because of my injury. But I'm competitive, and I am not the best one to ask about what is best."

Parra had major shoulder surgery in 2005. He has enjoyed a breakthrough 2007, rising from Double-A to the big leagues and pitching a Triple-A perfect game along the way. Parra carried a 3.09 big-league ERA into Sunday.

Bopper back: First baseman Prince Fielder returned to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension for an altercation with umpire Wally Bell earlier this month.

"We missed him," Yost said.

The manager had considered returning Fielder to the cleanup spot and moving third baseman Ryan Braun back to the three-hole, but instead batted Fielder third and Braun fourth. Braun has slumped since moving to the cleanup hole, batting .188 in that spot entering Sunday with a strikeout every three at-bats, though he slugged a three-run homer in the third inning.

"It's a mental adjustment that you need to make if you're going to be a ...," Yost said, without finishing that thought. "It doesn't have anything to do with the three or the four, Prince hitting behind him. He just needs to stay disciplined with his own approach."

Center fielder Bill Hall, meanwhile, was out of the lineup after going 1-for-9 in the first two games of the series with five strikeouts. Yost has said previously that Hall tries to carry the offense at times, but was not going for that explanation Sunday.

"At this point it just comes down to doing it or not doing it," Yost said. "You can come up with the reasons and excuses why, but they are all kind of irrelevant at this point. Either you are getting the job done or you're not."

A bad sign: Through 129 games, the Brewers had been outscored this season, 632-614. In Major League history, only four teams have won their division when being outscored on the season: the 1984 Royals, 1987 Twins, 1997 Giants and 2005 Padres.

On deck: The Brewers will play their biggest series in years beginning Tuesday, a three-game series in Chicago against the National League Central-leading Cubs. Jeff Suppan is scheduled to start for Milwaukee against Chicago left-hander Rich Hill in the 7:05 p.m. CT contest.