Confident Duke goes for first win

Confident Duke goes for first win

PITTSBURGH -- After sweeping a three-game weekend series from the Reds at PNC Park, the Pirates open a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Monday night.

The Pirates are hoping the series opener will be another big step in the resurrection of lefty starter Zach Duke. One of the keys this season for the Pirates is getting Duke back on track as he is coming off his second straight disappointing season. In 2007, he posted a 3-8 mark with a 5.53 ERA.

The 24-year-old received a no-decision in his last start, a 6-4, 15-inning Bucs loss to the Cubs. But there were encouraging signs for Duke, as he tossed seven innings and gave up eight hits and one earned run while recording six strikeouts.

"I feel good," Duke said. "I'm throwing the ball pretty well and I'm in a good groove."

Duke possesses a renewed confidence on the mound.

"I think that's the first element to anything," Duke explained. "Hitting, pitching, fielding -- the first element to it is your mindset, to be ready to attack somebody on every pitch. I think that I'm doing that right now. I think that I'm in a good place mentally and the results are there physically."

Bucs pitching coach Jeff Andrews feels the key for Duke is command of the fastball -- everything feeds off that.

"If you can command your fastball you can pitch to hitters' weaknesses," Andrews stated. "You feel like you're never giving in at any count. When it comes down to brass tacks, he knows that he can execute a fastball on any side of the plate, and that's a huge confidence factor."

Pitching matchup
PIT: LHP Zach Duke (0-0, 2.13 ERA)
Duke is 1-3 with a 7.99 ERA in four career starts against the Dodgers. He went 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in one start last year vs. Los Angeles, losing a 5-4 decision to Randy Wolf at PNC Park.

LAD: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 2.13 ERA)
A former Japanese League star, Kuroda will face the Pirates for the first time.

Nate McLouth has established a career high by hitting safely in each of his first 12 games. ... Lefty John Grabow has struck out seven batters in his 8 2/3 innings of work over eight appearances. ... Outfielder Chris Duffy, rehabbing from a left shoulder injury, isn't coming along as quickly as the club hoped. The Pirates are sending him for a second opinion on the shoulder on Tuesday in Los Angeles, where he will see Dr. Lewis Yocum.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WPGB-FM 104.7

Up next
• Tuesday: Pirates (Matt Morris, 0-1, 5.25) at Dodgers (Esteban Loaiza, 0-2, 6.75), 10:10 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Pirates (Paul Maholm, 0-1, 4.35) at Dodgers (Brad Penny, 1-2, 3.86), 10:10 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Off-day

George Von Benko is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.