Since the All-Star break, however, the rivalry has belonged to Pittsburgh.
The Pirates go for their sixth win in seven games against the Brewers as the NL Central clubs open a three-game series Friday night in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee won 14 of 15 games against Pittsburgh last season, helping the Brewers advance to the playoffs for the first time since 1982 and contributing to the Pirates’ 16th consecutive losing season.
Though the Pirates (53-72) appear doomed to a major league-record 17th straight sub-.500 finish, they’ve managed to improve their play against the Brewers (61-66). After dropping the clubs’ first five meetings, Pittsburgh has won five of six in the second half.
The Pirates outscored the Brewers 17-8 while sweeping a three-game series at home from Aug. 17-19.
“You take nothing for granted and take no team lightly, but the Pirates, I hate to say it, they played good baseball this series and they got a few breaks here and there and we didn’t,” Brewers outfielder Mike Cameron(notes) said after a 3-1 loss in the series finale.
Cameron could’ve said something similar Thursday after lowly Cincinnati completed a three-game sweep in Milwaukee. The Brewers lost the finale 8-5 to fall a season-high five games under .500.
“It’s kind of the epitome of how our season has gone,” All-Star outfielder Ryan Braun said. “It seems that if we don’t take advantage of every opportunity that we have, the other team finds a way to win the game.”
The Pirates have been good at that lately. Starting with their sweep of the Brewers, they’ve won seven of nine, including two of three in a just-completed series against NL East-leading Philadelphia.
“He’s that kind of guy,” manager John Russell told the Pirates’ official Web site. “He’s a very dangerous hitter. At any moment, that’s the kind of power that can change the scoreboard rather quickly. He continues to come up with very big hits for us.”
Duke is 0-3 with a 6.66 ERA in five starts against the Brewers since beating them Sept. 11, 2006. All five of those games were at Miller Park, where he’s 0-4 with a 6.35 ERA in eight career starts.
The left-hander snapped a four-start winless streak with a 12-2 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday. He held the Reds to two runs over seven innings for his third consecutive quality start.
The Brewers will hand the ball to Manny Parra(notes) (8-10, 6.54), who was tagged for eight runs - five earned - in 3 1-3 innings of an 8-3 loss at Washington on Sunday. The left-hander is 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA in two career starts against the Pirates.