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Two Lefties Square Off As Pirates Face Brewers

Follow the game at Bucs Dugout.

(Sports Network) - Though it went from a laugher to a nail-biter, the Pittsburgh Pirates were still able to snap their five-game losing streak to Milwaukee last night. Another offensive outburst might be needed, given Zach Duke's history against the Brewers.

The Pittsburgh starter will aim to halt his personal five-start slide this evening in the third contest of a four-game series versus the Brew Crew at PNC Park.

After losing a close encounter with the Brewers in Monday's opener, the Pirates raced out to a nine-run lead in the first inning of last night's contest, sending 13 batters to the plate in a frame that was highlighted by rookie Pedro Alvarez's first career grand slam and three Milwaukee errors that led to five unearned runs.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Pittsburgh scored nine runs in the first inning of a home game for the first time since Aug. 8, 1893, and the first time in any frame since June 8, 1989 at Philadelphia.

Amazingly, the Pirates lost that game to the Phillies over 21 years ago, and nearly did so again last night. Ryan Braun's two-run homer in the sixth inning pulled the Brewers to within a run, but Pittsburgh held on for an 11-9 victory for just its third win in its last 11 games.

Alvarez homered twice and drove in five runs while fellow rookie Neil Walker finished 5-for-5 with an RBI and run scored for the Pirates, who have still lost nine of 13 to the Brewers this year, including five of seven at home.

"That first inning was simply awesome," said Walker. "Hitting is contagious, and we certainly showed that. This is certainly something that we are capable of -- big innings like that one."

It was needed as well, as starter Brad Lincoln yielded seven runs over just 2 1/3 innings and the Pirates neededOctavio Dotel to record his 20th save of the season when all was said and done.

Lincoln actually exited the game before Milwaukee starter Dave Bush, who yielded 10 runs -- five earned -- over four innings of work. The right-hander had a streak of six straight starts in which he gave up two runs or fewer snapped.

"Other than this outing, I've been fairly pleased with how I've pitched for the last five or six outings," Bush said. "Sometimes these games just happen. Nothing was sharp for me tonight."

Jim Edmonds had a three-run homer for Milwaukee, which fell to 3-3 on an eight-game road trip.

Leadoff man Andrew McCutchen missed his second straight game for the Pirates due to a shoulder injury and is day-to-day. Pittsburgh could use his presence tonight, given that Duke hasn't won since May 18 and is just 3-7 with a 6.33 earned run average in 15 career starts versus the Brewers. That includes losses in both starts against them this year, with Duke giving up 14 earned runs over nine total innings for a 14.00 ERA.

Duke missed a month of action due to a left elbow injury and made his return to the rotation on Friday versus Houston. The left-hander saw his winless stretch extended even though he gave up just two runs on five hits over five innings of a 5-2 setback.

"[The Astros] didn't hit the ball hard off him, that's a good sign," Pirates manager John Russell said of the 27-year-old Duke, who is 3-9 with a 5.38 ERA this season. "They found some holes. For his first time back I thought he threw the ball pretty well."

While Duke has struggled versus the Brewers, Milwaukee starter Randy Wolf hasn't had similar issues against his opponent. Wolf is 8-2 with a 3.57 ERA in 16 career starts versus the Pirates and gone 1-1 with a 4.10 ERA in four starts versus them this year. He faced Pittsburgh in his final start before the All-Star break, allowing four runs on seven hits over six innings while serving up home-run balls to Lastings Milledge and Alvarez.

The 33-year-old lefty opened his second half with a victory versus Atlanta on Friday, allowing three runs on three hits and three walks over six innings of a 9-3 triumph. That victory moved Wolf to 7-8 with a 4.56 ERA on the season.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.