Duke Of Hurl: Mets Blanked By Rookie

There were two moments in last night's game for the Mets, via Cliff Floyd, to assert themselves against a rookie pitcher on the mound and complete their sweep of the Pirates and both times, the rookie pitcher won and Cliff Floyd struck out.

The end result was a virtual no-show for the Mets, a 5-0 loss which dropped them back to only two games above .500.

But it wasn't Cliff's fault, it just seemed that way. Zach Duke, the Pirate phenom pitcher with the slow, deceptive motion that disguises a wicked overhand curveball and a sneaky low-90's fastball that cuts in on the hands of right-handed hitters, has still not lost yet this season and won his sixth straight game after allowing the Mets two measely hits over seven innings. He went to a three-ball count once against his first 21 hitters.

The Mets first baserunner didn't come until two outs in the fourth inning, when right fielder Nate McLouth dropped Carlos Beltran's routine fly ball. Up came Floyd, down went Floyd on strikeouts, ending the inning.

And then again, not until the seventh when Beltran singled for the Mets' other hit off Duke. Up came Floyd, down went Floyd, striking out on another 75 mph curve. When David Wright walked for yet another tic of hope, Chris Woodward, who broke up Duke's no-hitter in the 5th, hit into an inning-ending double play. And that was it for the Mets against Zach Duke.

His six straight wins is the longest streak by a Pirates rookie since Don Robinson won seven straight decisions in 1978.

Mets lost for the ninth time in 13 Victor Zambrano starts.

All in all, a predictable evening.

Ace versus...



With the loss, as uninspired as any this season, the Mets are three games from the wildcard lead now that the Astros lost their third straight and the Nats and Phillies split their doubleheader.

The race is tighter. The Phillies took over the wildcard lead, a half game ahead of the Nats and Astros. The Marlins remain a game back and the Mets of course, get their chance to effect the race when the open a three game series against the Washington Nationals tonight.

The Phillies host the Pirates, the Marlins host the Dodgers and the Astros will host the Brewers.

John Patterson (7-3) starts tonight against the Mets for the Nationals. He has no-decisions in two starts -- both Mets victories -- this season against New York. Patterson has allowed five earned runs in 12 innings against the Mets.

The Mets will put Jae Seo on the mound again, hoping for a continued run of his domination. The Nationals handed Seo a loss on April 29, tagging him for three runs on three hits over five innings. But Seo has allowed just one run on nine hits over 15 1/3 innings in victories over the Cubs and Dodgers since he's returned from the minors.

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