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Duke hurls 7 scoreless, gets first major league win

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A kid pitcher makes a dazzling start or two
and his manager will invariably say he's performing beyond
expectations. It's not that way with Pittsburgh Pirates rookie
left-hander Zach Duke.

His manager and teammates expected this, and they're looking
forward to a lot more.

Duke pitched seven shutout innings for his first major league
victory and Humberto Cota hit a two-run homer, giving the Pirates a
2-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night.

With Duke making his second consecutive impressive start since
being called up from the minors last week, the Pirates split the
four-game series despite being outscored 18-6. The Phillies dropped
their 15th in 22 games and haven't won any of their last seven
series.

Duke (1-0), statistically the minors' top pitcher last year,
allowed six hits -- five for extra bases -- but repeatedly got big
outs while stranding seven runners. He struck out eight and walked
one.

A surprise? Manager Lloyd McClendon would have been disappointed
if Duke wasn't exceptional.

"I'm impressed with everything about him," McClendon said.
"The kid has a great makeup and the stuff to go with it. He's
something to be excited about. I think he can have a special
career."

The 20,942 fans quickly got behind Duke in his first home start,
chanting "D-u-u-ke! D-u-u-ke!" as he successfully followed up his
debut start, a seven-inning, three-run outing Saturday in
Milwaukee.

"When they were chanting my name, I got all kinds of chills,"
said Duke, who is 22 and looks even younger. "I definitely had
some jitters going -- it was my first time pitching here and I
wanted to make an impression."

Duke looked calm, confident and as uncommonly polished as he did
in shutting out the Phillies for five innings in a March 18
exhibition game, the start that unexpectedly pushed him into
contention for the opening-day rotation.

"I think it helped facing them before, knowing where I could
pitch their hitters," Duke said.

Duke started the season at Triple-A Indianapolis but was
promoted after going 12-3, following a 2004 season in which he was
a combined 15-6 with a minor league-leading 1.46 ERA in Double-A
and Single-A.

"He came at us -- when we'd get guys to second or third with two
outs, he'd bear down and get us out," manager Charlie Manuel said.
"We just couldn't get the big hit on him. He didn't buckle under.
He was aggressive."

Philadelphia had plenty of chances but was 0-for-6 with runners
in scoring position against Duke, who quickly advanced through the
Pirates' minor league system with a combined 43-17 record despite
being only a 20th-round draft pick in 2001.

"He threw all of his pitches, and he located them," the
Phillies' Jason Michaels said. "He wasn't missing too much. He
kept us a little off balance."

Duke's pitching line to date in the majors: 14 innings, 11 hits,
three runs, 17 strikeouts, two walks.

"He had everything: His changeup was exceptional, his fastball
touched 92 (mph), he had a decent curveball," McClendon said. 'It
was just a fantastic job."

Philadelphia finally scored in the eighth on Bobby Abreu's
double off John Grabow and Chase Utley's RBI single up the middle.
Jose Mesa pitched the ninth for his 21st save in 24 opportunities,
stranding pinch-runner Jimmy Rollins at second to end the game.

The Phillies lost despite two outstanding catches. Left fielder
Pat Burrell leaned into the first row of the stands to back pull
Jack Wilson's long drive in the fourth, just after Cota had
homered.

Center fielder Michaels made an even better catch in the
seventh, racing nearly into straightaway right field before sliding
on his stomach to run down Freddy Sanchez's drive -- one of the best
defensive plays in PNC Park's five seasons.

Michaels also had a double and a triple on the same day his
preliminary hearing on charges he struck a Philadelphia police
officer early Sunday was rescheduled for Sept. 21.

The Pirates, winning only their seventh in 24 games, wasted
several chances against Brett Myers (6-5), who needed 34 pitches
while walking the bases full without the Pirates scoring in the
first. They also left the bases loaded in the fifth.

But Rob Mackowiak, hitless in nine at-bats, doubled to start the
fourth and scored on Cota's two-out drive to left. Cota was
4-for-29 before hitting his fifth homer and the third off Myers in
three starts.

"I made one mistake and I lost the game," Myers said.

Game notes
Mesa has converted all four save opportunities since June
18. ... Pirates 2B Jose Castillo didn't start because of a sore
hamstring. Rollins missed a second consecutive start with a sore
hand. ... The Phillies are 0-6-1 in their last seven series, while
the Pirates are 0-5-2.