Pirates 2, Cubs 1

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PITTSBURGH (AP) – Zach Duke bounced back from the worst start of his short major league career to limit Chicago to a run over seven innings, and the Pirates beat the Cubs in Pittsburgh for the first time in exactly a year by winning 2-1 Saturday night.

Craig Wilson, now the Pirates’ everyday first baseman with Sean Casey out for up to two months with a back injury, tripled and scored both runs against Cubs starter Jerome Williams (0-1). The Pirates ended an eight-game home losing streak to Chicago that dated to April 15, 2005, and the Cubs had won 12 of 13 overall from Pittsburgh since then.

Duke’s excellent outing helped the Pirates avoid their first 3-10 start since the lockout-shortened 1995 season, when they won only 58 of 144 games.

Chicago threatened against reliever Roberto Hernandez in the eighth when Jerry Hairston Jr. and Derrek Lee walked. But Hernandez, who is unscored upon in seven appearances this season, got Aramis Ramirez on a short fly ball to center and struck out Michael Barrett.

Mike Gonzalez pitched a perfect ninth for his second save in two opportunities, giving Duke his first victory since beating Milwaukee in the Pirates’ last game in 2005.

Duke (1-1) was coming off an 8-3 loss Monday to the Dodgers in which he allowed seven runs in five innings – a performance that mirrored a mostly poor spring training for what was one of the majors’ top rookie pitchers last season. The 22-year-old left-hander was fifth in the NL rookie of the year voting after going 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA.

But Duke again looked like the pitcher who twice beat the Cubs and 300-game winner Greg Maddux following his midseason recall last season, allowing only one run in 16 innings while doing so. Duke shut out the Cubs on three hits over six innings before Ramirez doubled and scored on Matt Murton’s two-out single in the seventh.

Duke was lifted after throwing 104 pitches, 71 for strikes – walking only one and striking out five in an outing that reflected the excellent control he had last season. He was uncharacteristically wild against the Dodgers, throwing only 48 of 94 pitches for strikes.

Williams was effective in his first start this season, and his first in Pittsburgh since beating the Pirates 2-0 with 7 1-3 shutout innings on Sept. 4 in what proved to be former manager Lloyd McClendon’s final game before being fired. He gave up four hits and one earned run over six innings.

The Pirates got their first run against Williams in the second without the benefit of a hit. Wilson walked, stole second and scored on shortstop Ronny Cedeno’s two-out throwing error on Humberto Cota’s grounder.

Wilson tripled off the right-field wall to start the Pirates’ sixth and scored on Joe Randa’s sacrifice fly to put the Pirates up 2-0.

Notes: Murton had his third consecutive multihit game. … Duke has an 0.78 ERA in his three starts against the Cubs. … Despite losing, the Cubs have won 21 of 28 against Pittsburgh since May 30, 2004. … Murton is 9-of-18 in his last five games. … Wilson has four homers and a triple in 16 at-bats. … Casey sustained two fractures in his lower back while fielding a throw Friday night. … The Pirates’ Jason Bay went 0-for-0 despite batting four times. He walked three times and was hit by a pitch.

AP-ES-04-15-06 2138EDT

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