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Pirates 7, Astros 0: Duke Does it Again

Leaving aside the facts that the Astros are terrible, that Brian Moehler is basically a BP pitcher who tosses one flat 85 MPH fastball after another, and that the parade of mostly faceless relievers Houston used after that wasn't much better, this was still an encouraging game for the Bucs. 

First: Zach Duke! His first two starts have been revelatory, at least relative to his last two seasons. I'm not sure what, if anything, that means, but his first two outings haven't looked to me like a couple of random good starts. He has more zip on his fastball, he's mixing in his breaking ball well, he's choosing pitches wisely, and his location has mostly been very good. After whiffing Albert Pujols last week, he struck out Lance Berkman three times today. Three times! Duke also doubled for the second consecutive game. His complete-game shutout today also ensures that the entire bullpen will be fresh for the Bucs' next game on Wednesday.

Maybe it's meaningless at this point, but the generally tremendous play by the Pirates' starting pitching has been incredibly encouraging; now it's not only Paul Maholm who's pitching well, but also Duke and Ross Ohlendorf. Even Ian Snell was much improved in yesterday's start. 

And the hitting! Ryan Doumit and Adam LaRoche both had their second homers of the year today, and LaRoche added a double. Freddy Sanchez hit his fourth, fifth and sixth doubles of the year. Again, it's far too early to tell what to make of all this, and again, the Astros looked like an awful team today, but this has been a much better start than I expected.