Pirates' lefty gets second career shutout in 7-0 victory
September 6, 2008 5:15 AM
Ben Margot/Associated Press
Andy LaRoche (15) and Nate McLouth (13) congratulate teammate Ryan Doumit after scoring against the San Francisco Giants during the seventh inning of yesterday's baseball gam in San Francisco.
Ben Margot/Associated Press
Zach Duke works against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning of yesterday's baseball gamein San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
SAN FRANCISCO -- There are pitchers who avoid getting rattled, but this is the extreme.
Zach Duke pitched a six-hit shutout to push the Pirates past the San Francisco Giants, 7-0, last night, and he did so through a light earthquake that registered 4.0 on the Richter Scale and was felt by many of the 31,133 at AT&T Park. It struck just before midnight Eastern time, coming with two outs in the sixth inning as Duke fielded an Emmanuel Burriss squibber to the right of the mound.
"Really?" Duke said, informed of this minutes afterward. "I had no idea."
Neither did manager John Russell or any of his players.
"Didn't feel a thing," Russell said.
"You're kidding, right?" left fielder Nyjer Morgan said.
It was no joke: The earthquake, the first felt at a Giants game since the 1989 World Series was delayed by a 6.9 boomer at nearby Candlestick Park, was centered northeast of San Francisco in Contra Costa County. It was felt throughout the city and, at the stadium, mostly in the upper deck.
Game: Pirates vs. San Francisco Giants, 9:05 p.m., AT&T Park.
Radio: WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (8-8, 3.81) vs. RHP Matt Cain (8-11, 3.69).
Key matchup:Freddy Sanchez, a career .315 hitter against San Francisco, is 4 for 9 with three doubles and a walk vs. Cain.
Of note: Three players in Major League Baseball -- the Colorado Rockies' Willy Taveras, New York Mets' Jose Reyes and Boston Red Sox's Jacoby Ellsbury -- have more stolen bases than the Pirates' 41.
There was no delay in this game and, to hear Duke tell it, that was just fine.
"This was a pretty gratifying game for me," he said.
Small wonder: It was his second career shutout, third complete game, first victory on the road since May 27, 2007 at Cincinnati, and first victory anywhere since June 9.
Perhaps most "gratifying" of all given his intense personality, he did it with trademark tenacity.
San Francisco, lowest-scoring team in Major League Baseball, put seven men aboard in the first four innings, largely as the result of Duke's erratic pitching. That included three hits, two walks and a hit batsman that generated plenty of trouble.
"One thing that's hurt Zach this season has been the big inning," Russell said. "And it looked like that might happen again."
Looked that way in the first, but shortstop Brian Bixler made a diving stab of Bengie Molina's grounder that looked to be an RBI single up the middle. He rolled in the grass and flipped to Freddy Sanchez for the forceout to end the inning.
"All I'm thinking is to keep the ball in the infield to keep the guy at second from scoring," Bixler said. "Once I had it cleanly, I went for the out."
"Great play," Duke said.
In the third, bases were loaded with nobody out, but Duke got a 5-2-3 double play and another groundout.
"That was where he settled, right there," Russell said.
"I knew after that that the momentum was up to me to keep," Duke said.
He promptly returned the favor to the infield, too: In the fourth, third baseman Andy LaRoche committed a two-base error to open it, but Duke zipped through the next three batters to strand the runner at third.
"It's been an interesting year for me, obviously, but I'm never going to give up," Duke said. "I'm going to work my butt off and know that there are better days ahead."
And the key to this one?
"The sinker. A lot of balls were beaten right into the dirt. Early on, my command wasn't there, but everything started clicking."
Duke had a pitch count of 105 after eight, but Russell never hesitated in sending him back out for the ninth, largely because of his late efficiency. He needed just seven pitches, a popup and two more groundouts -- 17 outs came on the ground -- to finish his first shutout since May 2, 2006 at Chicago against the Cubs.
Offensively, after some early sputters, the Pirates wound up with 14 hits, four of those by Ryan Doumit to match a career high. Those came in his first four at-bats, extending a streak of reaching base safely nine consecutive times -- seven hits, two walks -- until he flied out in his final appearance. The official 7-for-7 run was the team's first since Sanchez did it May 30-31, 2006.
The Pirates led, 3-0, through six: That came on back-to-back doubles by Doumit and Adam LaRoche in the second, Nate McLouth's sacrifice fly in the next inning off San Francisco starter Kevin Correia, and LaRoche's sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Brandon Moss had left six runners aboard in his first three at-bats, but he nullified that with a two-run triple in the seventh that made it 5-0 and a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
Morgan also had a sacrifice fly, his in the eighth, giving the Pirates four to match a team record.