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Dodgers run over Duke, Pirates in L.A.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

LOS ANGELES — Although he lost 16 games, left-hander Zach Duke pitched well enough to be named the Pirates' lone All-Star last year. He looked to be on his way to the same honor during his first three starts this season.

Now he is looking like something else.

Duke gave up four runs and eight hits over six innings, including Andre Ethier's three-run homer, as the Los Angeles Dodgers won their second straight over the Pirates, 5-1, Saturday night at Dodger Stadium. For Duke, it was an improvement from his previous two starts.

Duke beat LA on Opening Day, yielding two runs in five innings as the Pirates won, 11-5. But he has become a different pitcher, and not in a good way. After winning his first two games with a no-decision, Duke has lost his last three starts, his ERA soaring from 2.37 to 6.09. It actually came down a bit against the Dodgers.

"He's better than that," Pirates manager John Russell said.

But it was progress and Duke, while hardly thrilled with his performance, will take it.

"I felt better," he said. "I felt more myself. I threw a lot of strikes. I felt like I had pretty good command."

Things got a little chippy between the teams. Andrew McCutchen homered in the first inning off rookie Carlos Monasterios, and when he came up in the fifth, reliever Ramon Ortiz threw two pitches in the vicinity of McCutchen's head. The Pirates weren't happy. When Ethier led off the seventh, the first pitch from reliever Jack Taschner went behind his back. Naturally, the Dodgers didn't care for that.

McCutchen took the diplomatic approach. "It happens," he said. "Not every pitch is gonna be right down the middle."

In the next locker, outfielder Ryan Church had a different opinion.

"It (expletive) sucks," Church said. "To have two thrown near his head, something's going on. It's (expletive) bush league. If you're gonna throw at someone, don't throw at their head."

Meanwhile, Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said he might have said some things to Taschner from the dugout after the pitch behind Ethier.

"That's just part of the game I don't really understand," Martin said. "Obviously there were a couple of pitches up and in at McCutchen. Obviously, they didn't like it. You don't want to hit anyone in the head. That's the way you're supposed to get the guy out, pitch him up and in ... Then he threw the ball behind Andre. That (expletive) me off."

The Pirates were without outfielder Garrett Jones, who was hospitalized Saturday morning with what was called a "blocked esophagus." Jones was released and joined the club at the ballpark around game time.

Opposing Duke was a mystery man, of sorts, in Monasterios. A 24-year-old rookie, Monasterios was making his first start after seven relief appearances. He handled those well, going 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA.

Before this season, Monasterios appeared in just two games above the class-A level as a Philadelphia farmhand. The New York Mets acquired Monasterios in the Rule 5 draft during the off-season, then traded him to the Dodgers for "cash considerations" before he ever threw a pitch.

Monasterios got off to an inauspicious start when McCutchen hit his solo home run with two out in the top of the first. It was McCutchen's fourth homer of the year and the extent of the Pirates' offense. The next hitter, Church, doubled, but Monasterios retired Ryan Doumit.

In the second, the Pirates loaded the bases before Monasterios got Andy LaRoche to hit into a force play to end the threat. He sailed through a hitless third and fourth innings and left after 73 pitches.

Ortiz came on in relief and the Pirates fared no better. In fact, they fared worse. Ortiz pitched three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out five in getting his first victory since October 2007. He was out of the majors the last two years.

Meanwhile, Ethier, who added a pair of doubles, hit his seventh homer of the year in the third inning to erase the Pirates' 1-0 lead. Monasterios led off with a single, his first big-league hit, and Martin reached on an infield single before Ethier blasted Duke's 0-2 hanging slider over the wall in right-center field.

"It hung out over the plate a little too long," Russell said.

Reed Johnson's opposite-field double in the fourth scored the Dodgers' fourth run, and LA tacked on another run in the seventh off Taschner.

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