Duke struggles again in early innings
Atlanta Braves' Melky Cabrera, right, scores on a Troy Glaus double as Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit waits for the throw.
Pirates starter Zach Duke works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves.
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ATLANTA -- A handful of trends continued Friday night, even though a downpour delayed the start of an eventual, 7-3 Pirates loss against Atlanta by an hour and 21 minutes at Turner Field:
• Zach Duke had trouble in the first inning, the inning he has given up his second-most runs this season. He allowed four runs on four hits, only one struck with authority -- a bases-clearing double by onetime Pirates catcher David Ross.
• With Derek Lowe rapping a double and scoring twice, opposing pitchers continued to rack up hits -- at a rate where their .250 average surpasses the Pirates' own averages at first base, second, third and left field.
That's .006 or less from topping their totals at shortstop and right field, too. So that's six positions of eight where opposing pitchers have a higher average.
- Game: Pirates vs. Atlanta Braves, 7:10 p.m., Turner Field.
- Radio: FSN; WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Brian Burres (2-2, 5.40) vs. RHP Kris Medlen (1-1, 2.57)
- Key matchup: Medlen has only pitched twice against the Pirates, but they have scored just two runs in his 82/3 innings. Only Ryan Doumit has an extra-base hit against him in 26 at-bats, a double.
- Of note: Doumit entered Friday's game having hit safely in 14 of his previous 17 road games, going 24 for 63 for a .318 average with 5 doubles, 3 homers and 9 RBIs.
• The Pirates also lost their fourth of five games on this road trip and seventh of nine games in their recent slide.
They are back to losing big, too: Outside of their pair of one-run victories in that span, they have dropped the other seven games by a combined 41-16.
When it rains ...
"A little bit of bad luck and a little bit of [lost] command on a couple of pitches," Duke tried to explain of a four-run first inning that proved fateful. "That walk to [Jason] Heyward was a command thing; that came back to bite me. After that, it was a little bit of bad luck. [Troy] Glaus hit a pretty good pitch through the right side. [Melky] Cabrera hit a ball 8,000 feet in the air right off the plate. And I left a curveball up [to David Ross], and he hit a three-run double.
"It was tough."
Pirates manager John Russell added, "Unfortunately, the first inning really hurt him. Giving up that many runs, it was tough to overcome."
As for Lowe, who scattered four hits and one run over seven innings and hiked his career record to a spotless 14-0 against the Pirates, Duke added of a pitcher dominating a team with such an ever-changing roster, "It's strange how it works out."
The day started on a bit of an unsettling note for the Pirates.
They placed Charlie Morton on the disabled list because of a right, throwing shoulder they labeled as fatigued and a pitching psyche likely weary as well from a nine-loss start and 9.35 ERA that are the majors' worst.
Steven Jackson, whose wife and 7-month-old daughter were visiting with relatives in South Carolina while the Class AAA Indianapolis Indians were playing in Charlotte, N.C., was summoned to bolster the pitching staff at least temporarily. So, instead, the extended Jackson family came to Atlanta to watch him pitch.
As for who will pitch Tuesday for the Pirates in Morton's spot in the rotation, that remains an open question.
Russell said it likely will not be answered for a few more days, although that does not necessarily mean it will be Brad Lincoln making his major-league debut on four days' rest after pitching five innings Friday night in Charlotte before that game was suspended by lightning.
Duke (3-5) yielded seven runs for the third time this season, but it was not as if the Braves clobbered the ball against him. Of the dozen hits against him, nine were singles.
The only Atlanta batters to get extra-base hits were Lowe (a double) and by Ross (two doubles).
Ross' first double cleared the loaded bases in the first inning, when it was the only ball of the four-run inning struck with any authority.
Atlanta's Chipper Jones had three RBIs, one in the second and two more in the sixth. The latter single scored Lowe, who walked, and Martin Prado, who reach base three of his first four at-bats and scored twice.
Heyward reached base each of his first four plate appearances, on a walk, a fielder's choice and two singles.
Duke has lost five of his past eight starts. And it was the early damage that continued to trouble him. Of the 41 runs he has allowed this season, 17 have come in the first and second innings.
The squall with one out in the ninth further delayed the game another 1:10, meaning the rain delays lasted longer (2:31) than the game time (2:26).
First Published May 29, 2010 12:55 am