OK, no deep analysis needed here. If Zach Duke gives the Bucs a quality start, they raise the Jolly Roger. He didn't. Six innings, six runs, another loss.
Duke is now 0-2 with a 5.34 ERA. The league is hitting .344 against him. He's closing in fast on last year's ERA of 5.53 and opponent batting average of .356.
The Pirates dug themselves out of a 6-0 hole to pull within one. They played about as well as they could, but the starting pitching continues to drag them down.
The Pirates converted 3-6 scoring opportunities, and Tyler Yates, Damaso Marte, John Grabow and Matt Capps shut the Phils down. The Bucs were again flawless in the field. Xavier Nady's hitting streak has reached a lucky 13 games.
And young Mr. Bixler is looking more comfortable at shortstop and starting to lay off the sliders everyone's throwing him a bit more. We suppose he's finally reading from the same book as the opposing pitchers.
The fans even came through, with 23,930 of them unlucky enough to not score Penguin tickets in attendance tonight. Oh, and it was fireworks night, and quite a few Phil fans found their way to PNC, too. Still, a nice crowd considering everything.
The bottom line? The Pirates played well enough to win. Zach Duke didn't. And Matty Mo takes the hill tomorrow. Good luck, Bucs.
On the MLB front: Ryan Howard, who is hitting .176 with 34 strikeouts in 85 at-bats, was not in the starting lineup for yesterday's series finale against Brewers righthander Jeff Suppan.
He wasn't penciled in against Pittsburgh Pirates lefthander Zach Duke at PNC Park, either. "I figure the time had come where it didn't really matter who was pitching," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. "It's time for him to take a break."
Mike Gonzalez, 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery, pitched in an extended spring-training game on Tuesday, as reported by the Augusta Chronicle.
He then threw a one-inning simulated game on Thursday and is scheduled to pitch another inning on Saturday. Gonzo could return to the Braves by the middle of May, and is expected to reclaim his spot at the back end of the bullpen by the second half of the season.
On the local front: You may have noticed that one of the candidates for the PA House in the West End's 27th District was old high school fireballer Ryan Douglass, who put up a creditable showing for his first time out as a campaigner.
Douglass led Canevin to the WPIAL and PIAA championship games in 1997 and was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 13th round of the MLB draft. Douglass had a full scholarship to Ohio U. but decided to turn pro instead.
Major League Baseball matched that scholarship offer for him to use at a future date, and he's been cashing in by attending night school at Pitt.
The big lefty reached the AA level for KC and Montreal, and closed out his career with the Washington Wild Things in 2005, pitching in the Frontier League All-Star game. He went on to work for retired legislator Tom Petrone, and keeps his baseball jones going as a player/coach for Elliott in the Federation League.
Douglass also runs a Field of Dreams baseball clinic, which he started in April of 2007. He works with eight athletic associations around the Pittsburgh area and passes on what he learned during his playing days.
Douglass, born and raised in Elliott, now lives in Crafton with his wife Kim. They're expecting their first child.