Who knew that, after two and a half months of the season, the steadiest member of the Pirates' rotation would be Jeff Locke? Locke shut down the Dodgers for seven innings en route to a 3-0 Pirates victory Friday night.
Locke allowed just two hits, striking out five and walking one. He induced two double plays (one on an excellent play by Clint Barmes) and never allowed a batter to reach second base.
"My hat always goes off to the defense," said Locke.
He threw only 75 pitches before being removed.
"I would have loved to be out there for the eighth, but I'm pleased with the way the game went," Locke said.
Clint Hurdle suggested Locke was entering a new phase of his career.
"We call them survivors here initially when guys get up. Then we look for them to turn that corner and become competitors, and then the last stage is a winner. I think we've seen Jeff grow out of that surviving stage. I think he's right in the middle of the competing stage now."
We'll see if that lasts -- Locke's peripherals and ERA still don't match, and he's only one start removed from walking seven batters. But there's little doubt that he looks much better than he did even at the beginning of the season.
Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli were very good in the eighth and ninth, striking out two batters apiece. They allowed two hits apiece, but one of those four was a bunt and two more didn't leave the infield.
Andrew McCutchen's two-run double with no outs in the third was more than enough for Locke and the Pirates' bullpen, but, for good measure, Neil Walker brought home a run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly as McCutchen darte home on a shallow fly ball.
David Manel contributed to this post.