Pirates 9, Dodgers 4

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PITTSBURGH (AP)—Zach Duke wasn’t perfect, far from it. Only his record is.

Duke became only the second rookie in Pirates history to win his first five decisions as a starter, giving up more than one run for only the second time in his short career in pitching Pittsburgh past the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-4 on Saturday night.

Duke (5-0) permitted four runs and 10 hits in 7 1-3 innings, the first time he has allowed more than one run since giving up three in 7 2-3 innings in his July 2 debut against Milwaukee.

His ERA may have jumped from 0.92 to 1.54, but the 22-year-old is the first Pirates rookie since Whitey Glazner in 1921 to start 5-0. No Pirates rookie has been 6-0. Glazner went 14-5 that season, but finished 41-48 during a five-year career with the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies and was 14-30 his final two seasons.

“Uh-oh, that means I’m on a bad track, right?” Duke said.

Not quite. The Pirates don’t expect a reversal like that from the left-handed Duke, who is 17-3 this season with the Pirates and Triple-A Indianapolis. Not a hard thrower, he relies on a changeup he repeatedly throws down in the strike zone and an excellent breaking ball he used to strike out six—including all three batters in the seventh. The four runs allowed were two more than in his previous five starts combined.

And this guy slipped to the 20th round of the 2001 June draft?

“It’s exciting he didn’t have his best stuff and he still kept us in the game,” said Jack Wilson, who homered, doubled and scored twice.

The Pirates had allowed 43 runs while losing three of their previous four, yet looked like a different, far-more-confident team with Duke on the mound.

“It seems like that,” Duke said. “They seem to play well the days I pitch. I don’t know what it is, but it is very positive.”

The Dodgers had their chances, getting it to 5-3 in the fifth on Antonio Perez’s sacrifice fly before Duke got Mike Edwards to bounce into a force play with runners on first and third and two outs.

“We had something going on in the fifth, it looked like we had a chance to get back in the game, but they cut the inning off,” manager Jim Tracy said. “We took some good at-bats off him, we created some opportunity for ourselves … but from watching him, he’s got a crisp fastball and his breaking ball also is very sharp.”

Just not this night, his worst in the majors but still not a losing night.

“I was battling myself all night,” Duke said. “I couldn’t run my fastball inside at all to right-handers, it was right down the middle, so I had to go more to my two-seam fastball and changeup.”

Duke wasn’t the only rookie contributing to the Pirates’ third victory in 11 games, two with Duke on the mound. Center fielder Chris Duffy had four hits for the second time in his 17 career starts, scored three runs and had an RBI, and first baseman Brad Eldred doubled in a run to help the Pirates bounce back from losses of 12-7 (San Diego) and 12-6 (Dodgers) the previous two days.

Last year’s NL rookie of the year, Jason Bay, had the biggest hit while driving in three runs—a two-run double after Freddy Sanchez’s RBI single in a three-run second that put the Pirates up 4-1. Dodgers starter Odalis Perez (6-6) gave up nine hits and six runs—five earned—in six innings to lose for the first time in six starts.

“Sometimes you go to the mound and believe you can go out and perform the way you want, but you feel mad if you can’t,” Perez said. “I went out there with confidence … I don’t feel about it at all. I feel bad because we lost.”

Castillo also drove in two runs, adding an RBI single in the first, and Sanchez had a triple among his three hits and drove in a run.

Olmedo Saenz hit his career-high 12th homer of the season, and second in as many games, and drove in two runs, giving him eight in two games, but the Dodgers still dropped their ninth in 14 games. Saenz’s RBI single in the first ended Duke’s 14-inning scoreless streak in PNC Park.

Duke left to a standing ovation and cheers of “D-u-u-u-k-e” after giving up Saenz’s solo homer, making it 8-4, and Edwards’ single in the eighth.

Duke also ended a couple of Pirate streaks against the Dodgers, who had won seven in a row in PNC Park since 2002 and nine straight against Pittsburgh since 2003.


The sellout crowd of 38,579 was the third largest since PNC Park opened in 2001. The Pirates are 3-14 there against the Dodgers. … Duke’s 0.87 ERA in July was the lowest among all major league pitchers. … Perez was 2-0 over his previous five starts. … Duke has 35 strikeouts and 12 walks in 46 2-3 innings. Of his 111 pitches, 80 were for strikes.

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