I posted earlier today about Charlie Morton potentially being booted from the rotation, and the thread took a turn I really didn't see coming when someone suggested that, if you look at advanced metrics, Duke had been just as bad as Morton. Sure enough, a couple hours later, Duke pitched perhaps his best game of the season, and against the league's best offense, to boot. It doesn't prove anyone in the thread was wrong or even really bear on what they were talking about, which had more to do with assessing Duke's performance before today than with anything he might do going forward. But it was funny to see him do that right after this long and well-considered discussion about how bad he's been.
Anyway, the Pirates caught a couple of breaks today--Carlos Ruiz really crushed a pitch in the third that wound up dying in the wind, and he ended up flying out harmlessly on what looked like a sure homer off the bat. Duke also pitched his way out of a huge jam in the first (with the help of an out at the plate). And Lastings Milledge scored the winning run in the fifth on a single by Garrett Jones when Ruiz couldn't hold onto the ball as Milledge slid home. Duke pitched six good innings and, as has been the case a lot recently, Evan Meek, Joel Hanrahan and Octavio Dotel did well with the last three. (If I had to give out an MVP for the Pirates' season so far, Andrew McCutchen would get it, but Meek would be close behind.) It's really nice to squeeze out a win against the Phillies, and particularly against Roy Halladay, who looked toxic--his sinker really is nasty.
In the minors, the Pirates got a bunch of interesting pitching performances, although a couple of their affiliates came up pretty short offensively. Donald Veal pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits, and Jose Tabata went 3-for-4 for Indianapolis, which beat Scranton 3-0. Altoona got one-hit (!) by Scott Barnes and the Akron Aeros, but Justin Wilson, who's pitched really well in his last several starts after a rocky beginning to the season, pitched five strong innings. Quincy Latimore hit a grand slam in the tenth inning for Bradenton, which beat Dunedin 6-1; Nathan Adcock allowed one run and no walks in six innings, and Diego Moreno picked up the win with two innings of his usual unhittable stuff. (Moreno now has 35 strikeouts and one walk for the season.) And West Virginia split a doubleheader, with Ramon Cabrera picking up three hits in the opener and nobody doing anything too interesting in the second game, as the Power managed just one hit. (Brandon Holden got his first start of the year and had four strikeouts and two runs allowed in three innings.)