In a game that featured Ryan Doumit leave with Nate McLouth-like symptoms and not one, but two LaRoches make fourth-inning fielding miscues, Duke tried out a new pitching motion that took his arms higher in the delivery.
The left-hander deemed it a successful first run, even though he extended his losing streak to eight games as the Brewers took Friday's series opener, 10-4, at Miller Park. Brandon Moss homered for the Pirates, who were without McLouth and may be without Doumit, who is day-to-day. Duke left with a 4-3 deficit after six innings, only to see the Pirates' bullpen melt down during a six-run seventh.
Duke (4-12) gave up six hits while striking out four and walking two. The new delivery worked for the first three innings, as he gave up just two singles.
"I'm trying pretty much anything at this point," said Duke, whose ERA rose to 5.29, his highest mark since April. "It helps me create better rhythm throughout my delivery. It keeps my upper and lower body together a little bit better. I certainly felt, at times, it was much more together and I made a lot more quality pitches."
Trouble came in the fourth. With Pittsburgh up, 2-0, Ryan Braun singled and took second on a wild throw by Andy LaRoche. Brother Adam would later make a wide throw of his own on a pickoff attempt trying to catch Mike Cameron breaking for second base.
"I don't know if that's ever happened, two brothers make an error in the same inning," Pirates manager John Russell said.
Don't waste your time looking it up. Adam wasn't given an error, and Cameron was credited with a stolen base.
Prince Fielder walked after Braun, and Corey Hart drove them both in with a double to right. Hart later scored on a sacrifice fly to put Milwaukee up, 3-2.
J.J. Hardy led off the fifth with a home run, but Duke retired his final six batters in order to leave on a good note.
"It was a little better," Russell said of Duke. "[Pitching coach Jeff Andrews] worked with his mechanics a little bit to try and free him up a little to be a little bit more loose. He showed better signs, from the side [session] especially, a little more life to his pitches. So it was progress."
"A lot of the swings I saw tonight were encouraging," Duke said. "It's not like the majority of the swings were perfectly timed. The ball felt good coming out of my hand. There were some defensive swings they were taking."
Duke lasted as long as his catcher. Doumit fell ill and was replaced by Raul Chavez in the seventh.
"I have to see how he's doing tomorrow," Russell said. "It could have been some dehydration things. It could be flu-like symptoms, we don't know. ... Once he was in [the clubhouse] for a little bit, he started to feel better. It could have been some dehydration. It could be the touch of the flu, we're not sure yet."
Sounds a bit similar to McLouth's ailment. Have they been hanging out?
"I hope not," Russell said. "Nate did turn the corner a little bit tonight, he was feeling a little better. We're going to get some more test results tomorrow on a viral infection type thing. Once we get those, we'll have a better idea. But he did start feeling better this evening, so that's a good sign."
Doumit and McLouth might have felt even more sick had they been out there for Milwaukee's merry-go-round seventh. Reliever Denny Bautista did not record an out, giving up four runs in the process. Sean Burnett came in and got out of the inning, but not before Cameron took him deep to right for a two-run shot.
Dave Bush (8-9) extended Milwaukee's winning streak against Pittsburgh to 10 games at Miller Park. He held the Pirates to seven hits and three runs in seven innings after throwing eight innings of one-run ball in his previous start against them.
"He usually pitches pretty well against us," said Jack Wilson, who went 1-for-4 with a double. "He's had our number for most of his starts."
Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.