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Duke silences Astros' bats in home opener

Duke silences Astros' bats in home opener
John Candelaria. Bob Veale. Bob Moose. Doug Drabek. Bob Friend.

Vern Law.

Zach Duke?

Believe it.

Duke left his mark on Pirates' home opener lore Monday by dominating the Houston Astros in a 7-0 victory.

With a sellout crowd bellowing his name, Duke tossed his fourth career complete game and third shutout. The left-hander gave up four hits, walked two and struck out five. Only one of the 33 batters he faced made it as far as third base.

"Awesome to watch," said fellow lefty Paul Maholm.

Duke's gem was the first complete-game shutout in the Pirates' home opener since Candelaria blanked the Chicago Cubs in 1978 at Three Rivers Stadium. It's only the fifth time it's happened in the past half-century and the first one at PNC Park.

At times, Duke seemed to be channeling another lefty, Veale, who in 1965 reeled off 10 scoreless innings to subdue the San Francisco Giants at Forbes Field.

"I'm honored to be with that company, for sure," Duke said.

The afternoon began with an emotion-packed pregame ceremony, marked by tributes to the city's three fallen policemen, all five branches of the Armed Forces and deceased organist Vince Lascheid.

World Series hero Steve Blass, who is celebrating his 50th year with the club, threw out the first pitch to Manny Sanguillen.

Moist eyes, anyone?

"This was definitely a special day for the city," Duke said.

And it got better as things went on ? an improvement over the previous four home openers, which had fizzled into gut-punch defeats.

The Pirates jumped on righty Brian Moehler for a run in the first inning. Freddy Sanchez doubled and scored on Ryan Doumit's two-out single.

Sanchez wound up with three doubles, one shy of the Pirates' single-game record set in 1932 by Paul Waner.

"Just trying to have good at-bats," Sanchez said. "We got a great performance out of Duke. Great win."

In the third, the Pirates sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs to chase Moehler (0-2). Sanchez had an RBI single, Adam LaRoche hit a two-run homer and Nyjer Morgan hit a two-run single.

Doumit smacked a solo homer in the eighth. Even Duke contributed a hit, lofting a double over the head of center fielder Jason Michaels in the fifth inning.

"The blind dog finds a bone every now and then, right?" said Duke, grinning.

The Pirates hit well enough that they didn't need Duke's bat. But his performance on the mound was indispensable.

"The whole team fed off it," said LaRoche, who had three of the Pirates' 14 hits.

Through six innings, Duke allowed just one hit: Miguel Tejada's one-out double in the first. The Astros' only threat came in the seventh, when Michaels singled and Jeff Keppinger delivered a double down the third-base line.

Relying almost exclusively on his sinker and changeup, Duke got 14 groundball outs.

"A pitcher who's working that quick, getting the ground balls and popups, you just naturally feed off it," LaRoche said. "And when it's your (team's) turn to hit, you want to stay in there as long as you can and give him a break."

How they scored

Pirates first inning (Brian Moehler pitching): With one out, Freddy Sanchez doubled to center field. Nate McLouth flied out to center, Sanchez to third base. Ryan Doumit singled to right, Sanchez scored. Pirates 1, Astros 0

Pirates second: Sanchez doubled to left. McLouth singled to right, Sanchez scored. With one out, Adam LaRoche hit a two-run home run (No. 2) to right on a 1-2 pitch. Brandon Moss singled to right. (Tim Byrdak pitching) Ramon Vazquez walked, Moss to second. Jack Wilson walked, loading the bases. Zach Duke grounded to third base, fielder's choice, Moss out at home 5-2, Vazquez to third, Wilson to second. Nyjer Morgan singled to center, Vazquez and Wilson scored, Duke to second. Pirates 6, Astros 0

Pirates eighth (Geoff Geary pitching): With one out, Doumit hit a solo homer (No. 2) to right on a 1-1 pitch. Pirates 7, Astros 0

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 15, 2009

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