Pirates 7, Cardinals 1
Duke struck out seven in his second complete game of the season, Nate McLouth drove in three runs with a home run and triple and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Cardinals 7-1 Friday night to end a five-game losing streak.
Duke (8-10), winless in three starts since July 19, outpitched Jeff Suppan (9-7), who had won three of four with a 1.95 ERA since the All-Star break. The left-handed Duke gave up a run in the first on Albert Pujols’ double and Juan Encarnacion’s two-out single, then limited the slumping Cardinals to six hits after that.
“I was able to put a pretty good string of innings together,” Duke said. “For the most part, I was able to limit the damage and when I’m on, that’s what I do.”
Duke, who again resembled the in-control, poised rookie who went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 14 starts following his midseason callup a year ago. He didn’t walk a batter, though he hit two, and was helped out by three double-play grounders. He also threw nearly three-quarters of his 101 pitches for strikes (75).
“It’s all about control,” Duke said. “I had it like I had it last year. The batters have made some adjustments and they’re taking a different approach to me than last year, but I haven’t been making pitches like I did last year.”
With third baseman Scott Rolen sitting out with back spasms—he is hitting .478 against the Pirates this season—the Cardinals dropped their third in five games on their current road trip and their 11th in their last 15. They had been 7-2 against the Pirates this season and 19-6 over the last two seasons.
“We had a tough day—they pitched and hit like a first-place team and we didn’t,” manager Tony La Russa said.
McLouth came into the game with 13 RBIs in 266 at-bats, only to drive in three in a span of two at-bats, or as many RBIs as he had in his previous 23 games. McLouth was lifted in the seventh with a sore left ankle, though he doesn’t think the injury is serious.
“I was able to get some pitches to hit in two tough at-bats, and it was nice to be able to extend the lead,” McLouth said.
With the Pirates up 2-1, McLouth started the fifth with his seventh homer, a full-count drive into the right-field seats that was the fourth allowed by Suppan in three starts. Freddy Sanchez, the NL batting leader, followed with a double and scored on one of Jason Bay’s three singles to make it 4-1.
“We were able to get some hits with runners on base and we haven’t been doing that lately,” said Bay, referring to the Pirates’ 3-for-40 performance with runners in scoring position during their losing streak.
“He had a tough time getting the count in his favor,” La Russa said of Suppan. “Duke was just the opposite. The whole game, he kept getting strike one and working us over. He controlled the count and then put us away.”
Pujols went 4-for-4 with two doubles to raise his average to .571 (12-of-21) with nine extra-base hits against the Pirates this season. After the third of Pujols’ four hits, Duke walked past him and said, “Take it easy on me.”
“The next time up, he hit one off the 410-foot sign in center,” Duke said. “That’s why he’s the best hitter in the National League.”
Duke’s outing was his best since he shut out the Cubs 8-0 on May 2, though he pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings while not figuring in the decision in the Pirates’ 2-1, rain-delayed victory over San Francisco on June 30.
“The reports were he had been a little erratic with his fastball, but he was right on the money,” the Cardinals’ Scott Spiezio said. “And he was using his curveball and changeup as well.”
Duke’s 29 runs allowed in the first are the most by any NL pitcher. … The Pirates won only their third in 10 games overall. … Pittsburgh is 12-31 against the Cardinals since 2004. … Bay came into the game 2-of-21 against Suppan before going 2-of-3 against him. … Pujols has a .398 average (70-for-176) with 18 homers and 15 doubles at PNC Park. … Duke had lost four of six. … Suppan is 7-3 in 14 career starts against Pittsburgh. … Duffy went 2-for-3 after being 3-for-32 since his August 1 recall from the minors. … The Pirates didn’t get home until 4:05 a.m. following a Thursday night game in Houston.