Russell Martin homered twice as the Pirates trounced the Cardinals Sunday afternoon, 9-0, taking over first place in the N.L. Central in the process.
Jeff Locke pitched seven strong innings, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out four and getting more swings and misses than usual. And while he was doing that, the Pirates' offense was quietly adding to its run total. Martin homered to left-center in the second. Then, Jose Tabata added a solo homer of his own in the fifth. Then in the sixth, Brandon Inge singled. Fernando Salas relieved Shelby Miller (who had recorded seven strikeouts), and John McDonald doubled to left. Inge ran hard around the bases and beat the throw home to make it 3-0. The Bucs scored again in the seventh when Garrett Jones (who also doubled, singled and walked) hit a ball off a sign just past the fence in right that was called a homer on review.
Those four runs were more than enough, but the Pirates added to their total with a big inning off Mitchell Boggs and Mark Rzepczynski in the ninth. Clint Barmes and Starling Marte singled, and Jones walked to load the bases. Then Gaby Sanchez got an RBI on a groundout. Pedro Alvarez brought home two more runs on a single, and Martin homered for the second time to put the Pirates up by nine.
This was another excellent game for the Bucs. I'm not sure anyone really thinks that all this power from Martin is sustainable, or that Tabata will be a big part of the offense (or that the Pirates' ridiculous McDonald/Inge/Tabata lineup today would do much of anything in the long run, even if given the chance). But Locke's much-improved starts today and last Tuesday, after his shaky performances in his first three outings, give hope that he can be a productive part of the rotation.