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 call-up 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," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
McLouth came into the game with 13 RBI in 266 at-bats, only to drive in three in a span of two at-bats, or as many RBI 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."
|Nate McLouth trots past Cardinals third baseman Scott Spiezio after ripping a fifth-inning home run. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|St. Louis Cardinals|
|David Eckstein, SS||3||0||1||0||0||0||0|
|Ronnie Belliard, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||2||2|
|Albert Pujols, 1B||4||1||4||0||0||0||0|
|Juan Encarnacion, RF||4||0||1||1||0||1||3|
|Scott Spiezio, 3B-LF||4||0||1||0||0||0||2|
|Jim Edmonds, CF||3||0||0||0||0||2||2|
|Josh Hancock, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jorge Sosa, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|a- Chris Duncan, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|So Taguchi, LF-CF||4||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Yadier Molina, C||2||0||1||0||0||0||0|
|Jeff Suppan, P||1||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|Tyler Johnson, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Aaron Miles, 3B||1||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|a-flied out for Sosa in the 9th|
|2B - Albert Pujols 3 (, Duke, Duke, Duke)|
|SH - Jeff Suppan ()|
|RBI - Juan Encarnacion ()|
|2-OUT RBI - Juan Encarnacion ()|
|Team LOB - 6|
|DP - Suppan-Eckstein-Pujols, Spiezio-Belliard-Pujols|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|Jeff Suppan (L,-)||5.1||8||5||5||1||3||1|
|HBP - Nady (by Jeff Suppan), J. Wilson (by Jeff Suppan)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Suppan 85-54, Tyler Johnson 15-7, Josh Hancock 28-16, Jorge Sosa 11-10|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Suppan 9-2, Josh Hancock 1-2, Jorge Sosa 2-1|
|Batters Faced - Jeff Suppan 25, Tyler Johnson 4, Josh Hancock 7, Jorge Sosa 3|
|Nate McLouth, RF||4||1||2||3||0||1||2|
|Jose Hernandez, 3B||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jack Wilson, SS||3||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Freddy Sanchez, 2B||5||1||1||0||0||1||3|
|Jason Bay, LF||4||2||3||1||0||0||1|
|Xavier Nady, 1B||3||1||0||0||0||0||3|
|Jose Bautista, 3B-RF||3||0||2||1||1||0||0|
|Ronny Paulino, C||4||1||2||2||0||0||1|
|Chris Duffy, CF||3||1||2||0||1||1||2|
|Zach Duke, P||3||0||0||0||0||2||6|
|2B - Freddy Sanchez (, Suppan), Jose Bautista (, Suppan), Chris Duffy (, Johnson)|
|3B - Nate McLouth (, Johnson)|
|HR - Nate McLouth (, Suppan)|
|SH - Zach Duke ()|
|RBI - Nate McLouth 3 (), Jason Bay (), Jose Bautista (), Ronny Paulino 2 ()|
|2-OUT RBI - Nate McLouth 2 ()|
|Team LOB - 8|
|DP - F. Sanchez-J. Wilson-Nady, J. Bautista-Nady, F. Sanchez-J. Wilson-Nady|
|Zach Duke (W,-)||9||8||1||1||0||7||0|
|HBP - Molina (by Zach Duke), Eckstein (by Zach Duke)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Zach Duke 101-75|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Zach Duke 11-6|
|Batters Faced - Zach Duke 34|
|Attendance - 30516|
|Game Time - 2:18|
|Temperature - 78|
|Umpires - Home - Eric Cooper, First Base - Gerry Davis, Second Base - Brian Gorman, Third Base - Bill Miller|