Zach Duke was hit hard for the first time this season, giving up six runs and 12 hits in six innings of the Pirates' 11-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves this afternoon before 14,766 at PNC Park.
Duke entered 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA but gave up solid contact throughout his third start, notably on Martin Prado's backbreaking three-run home run in the fourth.
"I still liked the way he was throwing the ball, but he just couldn't get it to go where he wanted," Pirates manager John Russell said of Duke. "He was leaving it out over the plate instead of pitching inside the way he had been, and they took advantage of it. But he's been good, and I'm sure he's going to push it aside."
"The fastball was not sharp, and the command was not very good at all," Duke said. "It's tough to be successful when you're like that. ??? Just one game. I'm focused on my next start, and I'll be ready."
Atlanta scored three times in the first -- that on Jeff Francouer's two-run single and Casey Kotchman's RBI single, each after two outs -- to end the Pirates' string of scoreless innings at 21. That included shutouts of the Braves in the first two games of this series.
Duke needed 30 pitches to get through the inning.
The Braves doubled that lead to 6-0 in the fourth: David Ross doubled, and Jordan Schafer reached on a deft bunt single. Duke got two outs after that, but his 2-1 fastball to Prado was a lifeless 87-mph fastball that Prado launched into the bleachers beyond the North Side Notch in left-center.
Chipper Jones, Atlanta's most feared hitter, was on deck.
"I wanted Prado to beat me, not Chipper," Duke said. "Turned out he did."
Craig Hansen relieved in the seventh and was hit even harder, allowing four runs, including David Ross' three-run home run into the bleachers.
The Pirates' offense managed just five hits during Javier Vazquez's six scoreless innings.
"He hit his spots, changed speeds and kept us off balance," Russell said.
Atlanta had lost five in a row.
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