MLB Insiders - Milwaukee Brewers

Zach Duke

The Pirates open a three-game series at Miller Park with the Milwaukee Brewers. On Friday lefty Zach Duke will pitch for the Bucs. The Brewers counter with right-hander Dave Bush.

The Milwaukee Brewers look to continue their home dominance of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a three-game set.

Milwaukee will send a hot pitcher to the mound in Dave Bush (7-9, 4.26 ERA), who's 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA in his last three starts.

The right-hander has pitched at least seven innings in five of his last seven games, going 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in that span. The stretch started July 5 against the Pirates, when he allowed one run and four hits in eight innings of a 2-1 victory, although he didn't get the decision.

Bush went seven innings again Saturday, yielding two runs and five hits in a 4-3, 10-inning win at Los Angeles.

Pittsburgh will hand the ball to Zach Duke (4-11, 5.26), who's 0-7 with a 6.65 ERA in his last 12 starts and has allowed 13 homers in his last eight. The rough stretch includes an 11-6 loss at Milwaukee on July 6, when the left-hander gave up six runs in 2 1-3 innings, including a homer to Braun. Duke didn't factor in the decision.

Duke is 0-3 with a 7.76 ERA in six games at Miller Park.

The Pirates traded third baseman Jose Bautista to Toronto on Thursday for a player to be named later.

The player to be named will not be known until after the season.

Thanks to a succession of deep-inning outings by the Brewers rotation in recent weeks, some relief pitchers have been getting irregular work. Now, with three off days in an eight-day span, those relievers will be getting even more time off.

Is there any downside to that for a relief corps?

"There's a little rustiness," manager Ned Yost said. "Everybody else is complaining that their bullpen is worn out. Ours is a little rusty.

"You don't worry about it. It won't stay like that. It works itself out. That's the whole goal, that your bullpen is strong in September.

"It's not a blessing in disguise. That's what we planned on, hoping would happen, if you go deeper with your starters."

Reliever Carlos Villanueva said the yeoman's work being done by the rotation will pay off for the bullpen over the final weeks of the season.

"We're coming down the stretch now and we feel good," he said. "We really like our chances right now. We're just going to grind it out until the last day."

--2B Rickie Weeks is batting only .229 out of the leadoff spot with a .335 on-base percentage but leads the Brewers with 75 runs scored. Weeks walked three times Wednesday against Houston and scored all three times.

--SS J.J. Hardy hit his 19th home run of the season Wednesday. Hardy hit just one homer in April and May, then four in June, nine in July and now four in August. Hardy is batting only .225 this month.

--RHP Salomon Torres has converted 23 of 26 save opportunities since becoming the closer in late May.

--RHP Dave Bush, who starts Friday night against Pittsburgh, is 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA in three starts this month (four runs in 20 1/3 innings).

--Brewers starting pitchers are 11-5 with a 2.77 ERA over their last 19 games, with 14 quality starts.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- Starts of at least seven innings for RHP Dave Bush over his last 10 outings through Aug. 17.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You've got two real good contending teams and nobody is going to give up. That's how these games play out." -- Manager Ned Yost, after the Brewers pulled out a 4-3, 10-inning road victory over the Dodgers on Saturday night.

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