Maybe the best testament to Zach Duke’s bounceback this year is a game like today’s. Despite all of the evidence that shows that Duke is throwing the ball better this year, that his stats aren’t really a mirage, that he really is growing into a good starting pitcher, as soon as he has an inning like the first inning today, I start waiting for the worst to happen. Today, like every other start of his this year, Duke has bore down and kept that other shoe from dropping. From what I could tell on the radio and the GameDay, he didn’t have his best stuff today and his manager tried to sabotage him by playing the lead glove twins, Young and Vazquez, at second and short for no particular reason at all, and yet Duke still held the Cubs scoreless after a bad first inning. It’s hard to ask for more from a starter.
Unfortunately, Duke was about all we had going for us today. Delwyn Young’s mysterious start at second base over the white-hot Freddy Sanchez produced three strikeouts and an 0-for-4. In fact, outside of Ramon Vazquez, the Pirates only had five hits and they only managed an earned run and an unearned one when Nyjer Morgan sprinted home on a wild pitch and barely snuck around Carlos Zambrano, prompting one of the great player tantrums of the season and possibly the decade. That tirade got the Big Z ejected and it’ll likely get him suspended, but it fired the Cubs up and they rallied for three runs against Jesse Chavez and Sean Burnett (two guys who the other shoe did fall for tonight) to put away the win in the eighth.
So the ten-game road, two-city road trip ends at 5-5, but only a 2-4 slide over the last six games. The .500 run is good enough to keep them sniffing around .500, but really all we learned from this road trip is that the Pirates are better than the Nationals, and not good enough to take a series from anyone in the city of Chicago. Hopefully the Bucs will enjoy their off-day tomorrow, because they end May and open up June with 17 straight games against the Astros, Mets, Braves, and Tigers. By the end of that stretch, we’ll know a lot more about this club than we do now.