PITTSBURGH (AP) – Pittsburgh rookie left-hander Zach Duke pitched seven shutout innings for his first major league victory and Humberto Cota hit a two-run homer, giving the Pirates a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night.

With Duke making his second consecutive impressive start since being called up from the minors last week, the Pirates split the four-game series despite being outscored 17-7. The Phillies dropped their 15th in 22 games and haven’t won any of their last seven series.

Duke (1-0), statistically the minors’ top pitcher last year, allowed five extra-base hits among the six he gave up, but repeatedly got big outs while stranding seven runners.

The 20,942 fans quickly got behind Duke in his first home start, chanting “D-u-u-ke! D-u-u-ke!” as he successfully followed up his debut start, a seven-inning outing Saturday in Milwaukee in which he gave up five hits and three runs.

The 22-year-old Duke looked as calm, confident and as uncommonly polished as he did in shutting out the Phillies for five innings in a March 18 exhibition game, the start that unexpectedly pushed him into contention for the opening-day rotation.

He didn’t win that job, but was promoted after going 12-3 at Triple-A Indianapolis a year after he was a combined 15-6 with a minor league-leading 1.46 ERA last season, which he divided between Class A and Double-A.

Philadelphia had plenty of chances but was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position against Duke, who quickly advanced through the Pirates’ minor league system with a combined 43-17 record despite being only a 20th round draft pick in 2001.

Duke’s pitching line to date in the majors: 14 innings, 11 hits, three runs, 17 strikeouts, two walks.

Philadelphia finally scored in the eighth on Bobby Abreu’s double off John Grabow and Chase Utley’s RBI single up the middle, but Jose Mesa pitched the ninth for his 21st save in 24 opportunities.

The Phillies lost despite getting two outstanding catches. Left fielder Pat Burrell leaned into the first row of the stands to back pull Jack Wilson’s long drive in the fourth, just after Cota had homered.

Center fielder Jason Michaels made an even better catch in the seventh, racing nearly into straightaway right field before sliding on his stomach to run down Freddy Sanchez’s drive – one of the best defensive plays in PNC Park’s five seasons.

Michaels also had a double and a triple on the same day his preliminary hearing on charges he struck a Philadelphia police officer early Sunday was rescheduled for Sept. 21.

The Pirates, winning only their seventh in 24 games, also wasted several chances against Brett Myers (6-5), who left after five innings after walking five and running the count deep to numerous batters.

Myers needed 34 pitches while walking the bases full without the Pirates scoring in the first, then left the bases loaded again in the fifth. But Rob Mackowiak, hitless in nine at-bats, doubled to start the fourth and scored on Cota’s two-out drive to left. Cota was 4-for-29 before hitting his fifth homer and the third off Myers in three starts.

Notes: Mesa has only four save opportunities since June 18, but has converted each one. … Pirates 2B Jose Castillo didn’t start because of a sore hamstring. … Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins, added to the NL All-Star team earlier in the day, pinch ran in the ninth. He sat out Wednesday night’s game because of a sore hand. … The Phillies are 0-6-1 in their last seven series.

AP-ES-07-07-05 2141EDT

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