Before I even start this recap, I need to point the following things out: the Astros haven't scored since Saturday, they started Jason Michaels in center today, and Russ Ortiz took the mound for them today. This isn't so much a baseball team as it is a squad of players that even Dave Littlefield would be embarrassed by. All reactions to this game should be tempered by this reality.
That said, Zach Duke just threw a complete game shutout. Yes, I'm worried about him throwing 119 pitches in April, but it's hard to imagine JR was going to pull him at less than 120 so long as he had a shutout going in the home opener. His velocity looked good on the Gameday in the 9th inning, and so I'm just going to hope this is a non-issue.
Just like his first start against the Cardinals, he again did all the things that he hadn't been doing the past few seasons. I realize that Duke's not a strikeout pitcher and he never will be, but every pitcher has to strike some batters out, and if they're not it's a good indication that they're not pitching well. From 2006-2008, Duke's K/9 rates were 4.9, 3.4, and 4.2. Those aren't numbers he can succeed with. Today, he got five strikeouts over the full game, including getting Lance Berkman on K's three times. In his two starts this year, he's averaging 5.7 K/9. As everyone's been noting, his fastball has more zip on it and his breaking balls seem to have more bite. He looked like a different pitcher last Tuesday and while I didn't see today's game, it seems clear that he did again today. I still think it's too soon to start making any conclusions about him, but I like everything I've seen so far.
After Ian Snell's good start was wasted yesterday, it was also nice to see some offense today to back Duke's strong effort, even if it was off of a pretty motley crew of Astros' pitchers. Freddy Sanchez double three times and Adam LaRoche and Ryan Doumit both homered (right around the seats that I would've been sitting in if I had been able to make it home ... grumble grumble grumble) and added multiple hits to the seven-run, 14-hit attack.
At the end of the day, we can talk about how bad the Astros are, but the Pirates are 4-3 and my dad (who's been going to these things for quite some time) called today one of the best home opener's he's ever seen. Who's going to argue with that?