Zach Duke and his 0.59 ERA take the mound against Javy Vazquez and the Braves at 1:35. Both Jack Wilson and Chipper Jones return to the lineup today, which is probably a bigger boost for the Braves than the Pirates even though Jones has struggled this year. To John Russell’s credit, he’s going with his every day lineup here on Sunday, even with the series win already in the bag. It would’ve been easy to give Craig Monroe another start after his hot day yesterday and give Ryan Doumit the day off, but Monroe’s on the bench against the righty Vazquez and since Doumit gets a full day of rest after yesterday’s afternoon game, Russell’s going for the sweep at full force.
At some point, Zach Duke is going to start coming back to earth. He’s been practically invincible in his first two starts and we’re talking about a guy who could put up a full-season ERA of 4.00 and we’d all agree it was a giant breakout year. The hits are going to start falling at some point and he’s going to start looking human again, though I’m not sure that day is going to be today. The Bucs pitchers have had some good luck against the Braves in this series without racking up a ton of strikeouts and they’ve gotten some pretty good defense behind them. That’s what Duke needs to have another good start, and I think he’s probably got another one in him today. He’s going to have to be good, because I think Vazquez’s start is going to resemble the one that Jurrjens on Friday and he might not have a lot of run support this afternoon. That and, well, the Braves have to score at some point, right?