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07/06/08 9:13 PM ET

Pirates come up empty in Milwaukee

Duke lasts only 2 1/3 innings as Bucs drop all three to Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- It was one of those days where it didn't seem to matter who manager John Russell sent to the mound. The Brewers were going to tee off regardless.

After watching Paul Maholm pitch a gem on Saturday, starter Zach Duke and Co. couldn't emulate the left-hander's same success, and the Pirates were unable to salvage the finale, falling to the Brewers, 11-6, in front of 42,163 at Miller Park on Sunday.

With the loss, the Pirates finished the road trip with a 2-4 record.

"We played pretty well in Cincinnati, but we came here and they beat up on us pretty well," Russell said. "They swung the bats very well."

It was the culmination of what was a news-filled and draining road trip. The fact that the team was swept for the fourth time this season was just part of it.

Enduring two walk-off losses as well as the loss of their closer to injury and last year's best starter to the Minors, the Pirates were more than ready to board a plane back to Pittsburgh late Sunday afternoon. And then to rub salt in the wound, Sunday's defeat would mark the Pirates' ninth loss in their past 10 games in Milwaukee.

"We never had any real momentum this series," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "It just seemed like we were always either fighting to get back in it or giving it away. And that's why this road trip felt so long. It just wears you out going out there every inning having to scramble like that."

Both Duke and Brewers starter Jeff Suppan didn't make it to the fourth inning after each allowed six runs. For Duke, the 2 1/3-inning outing marked the first time this season that the left-hander was unable to finish at least four innings.

A shaky first set the tone for a day in which the Brewers connected for 12 extra-base hits, matching the previous franchise record, which had been reached in a 10-inning game back in 2001.

Two home runs and a rare error by Pittsburgh shortstop Jack Wilson spotted the Brewers a 4-0 lead by the end of the first. In an inning that Duke needed 31 pitches to escape, the tone was quickly set.

"I think if you set the tone differently, then it plays out differently," Duke said. "I allowed them to get settled in and take good hacks. You just can't do that."

For a pitcher who had the National League's second-lowest ERA among left-handers since May 1, Duke never seemed to settle in. His pitches were too low early. And when he tried to compensate, those pitches began finding too much of the plate.

The Pirates offense, however, climbed right back to tie the game in the second. Jason Bay led off the inning with his team-leading 17th home run of the season. Nate McLouth followed with a bases-clearing double later in the inning to notch the game at 4.

LaRoche's tie-breaking, two-run homer in the third gave the Pirates a short-lived lead, but even that was quickly negated when the Brewers tagged Duke for two more in the bottom half of the inning. He was pulled before getting out of the inning.

"[The] command wasn't there from the get-go," said Duke, who came into the start having pitched six innings in 10 of his past 12 starts. "It's on me today. The offense battled back to get me back in the lead, and I still couldn't hold it."

Knowing that he might need to dig into his bullpen prematurely both Monday and Tuesday, Russell had hoped to be able to give his relievers a light load for the second straight day. Instead, the Pittsburgh manager found himself needing four relievers to halt the Brewers' offensive onslaught.

Denny Bautista (1-1), who had not been scored upon in his first three appearances as a Pirate, was chased out of the game in the fourth after being knocked around for four extra-base hits in a four-run fourth that gave the Brewers a 10-6 lead.

Even though the trio of Sean Burnett, John Grabow and T.J. Beam limited the Brewers to just one more tally, the Pirates couldn't stir up a successful comeback attempt against the Brewers bullpen, which faced just three over the minimum in the final five innings.

Now the Pirates begin a critical seven-game homestand leading up to the All-Star break. They sit at a season-worst seven games below .500.

"We need to try and finish strong before the break," Russell said. "We need to go home and win some games so we can go into the break and not dig ourselves into a hole."

Added LaRoche: "We need to kind of sit back and figure out how to win again."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.