One day after their lack of offense helped make them the victims of a ninth-inning comeback, the Pittsburgh Pirates had plenty of success at the plate. They’ll try to duplicate that performance for Zach Duke(notes).
Duke looks to match his win total from last season and help the Pirates win their three-game series against the Colorado Rockies with a victory in Sunday’s finale at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh (15-21) took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning Friday night only to give up three runs and fall 3-1 in the series opener. The Pirates had more margin for error Saturday, when they battled back from a 3-0 deficit with a four-run second inning and finished off a 7-4 victory.
That has usually been the case when Duke (4-3, 2.52 ERA) has taken the mound this season. After going 5-14 with a 4.82 ERA in 31 starts last year, the left-hander has held opponents to one earned run or fewer in five of his first seven starts in 2009. He gave up one run and four hits in eight innings of a 7-1 victory over St. Louis on Tuesday.
“Duke has been pretty consistent for us,” Pirates manager John Russell told the team’s official Web site. “He hit his spots and changed speeds very well. When he’s doing that he’s tough to hit.”
Duke’s success, however, is largely tied to the help he gets from his offense. He’s gotten 31 runs of support over 31 2-3 innings in his four wins, each of which Pittsburgh won by at least three runs. In Duke’s three losses, he’s gotten a total of two runs of support over 18 1-3 innings.
Duke might need lots of help against the Rockies, who hit him hard twice last year. Duke was 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in those games.
However, Colorado (14-21) hasn’t shown much offensive prowess lately. It’s been held to three runs or fewer in six of its last nine games, going 3-6 in that stretch. The Rockies managed four runs in Saturday’s defeat but totaled only six hits, including one in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Colorado hopes to rebound behind Sunday’s starter Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) (3-4, 4.73). After posting a 9.00 ERA during a four-start losing streak, the right-hander has held opponents to one run over seven innings in each of his last two starts, both wins.
“Everything is getting better, especially my fastball command,” Jimenez told the Rockies’ official Web site after a 12-1 victory over Houston on Tuesday. “I wanted to sink it in and make it come back to the plate. I feel really good, like I wasn’t trying to throw hard.”
Jimenez is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in two career starts against the Pirates.
Rockies first baseman Todd Helton(notes), the franchise leader in hits, recorded his 1,999th on Saturday. He’s batting .391 against left-handers this season and he’s 1 for 3 with a walk in his career against Duke.