PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Zach Duke hadn't started in the Major Leagues before July. Five starts and three wins later, he was being considered for the National League's Pitcher of the Month award. He'll have to settle for being voted the senior circuit's Rookie of the Month, beating out players such as Jeff Francoeur (.413, 6 HR, 16 RBI) of the Braves; Ryan Howard (.289, 5 HR, 19 RBI) of the Phillies; Marcos Carvajal (0-0, 1.38 ERA, 12 K) of the Rockies; Willy Taveras (.321, 13 R, 9 SB) of the Astros; and Brad Halsey (3-0, 2.20 ERA, 14 K) of the Diamondbacks.
"I expected to have some success, but this has surpassed every expectation I had," Duke said. "I'm kind of on Cloud Nine right now and I'm very confident." "He's the most focused pitcher I've played with," center fielder Chris Duffy said. "Before a game, you can just see that he gets in his zone when he's got his iPod going. "He's watching film, and studying hitters. I think it shows when you pitch to hitters' weaknesses and start exposing them." Duke led all Major League starters with a 0.87 ERA during July, allowing 27 hits and four runs (three earned) in 31 innings pitched. He struck out 27 batters and walked only nine. Duke shut out opposing offenses over a stretch of 22 innings. It was the longest such streak by an NL rookie since Roy Oswalt tossed 24 straight scoreless frames in 2001. In his July 2 debut, Duke struck out nine batters -- thus far his career-high. "I thought Duke was fantastic tonight," manager Lloyd McClendon said then. "He threw the ball extremely well. I think this young man has a very bright future." "I'm not going to get complacent," said Duke. "I still have a lot of work to do."
Ben Couch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.