With his spot in the starting rotation suddenly in jeopardy, Jeff Locke didn't do much to make Clint Hurdle's decision concerning his status any easier tonight. Locke made it through only 4.2 innings, leaving the game with the Pirates trailing 5-0. The Bucs battled back in the middle innings, before dropping the series opener to the Milwaukee Brewers 7-6.
It is difficult to assess Jeff Locke's start tonight. Right out of the gate he faced a bases-loaded, no-out situation, when the first two Brewers' hitters of the game, Norichika Aoki and Jean Segura, reached base on infield hits and Johnathan Lucroy walked. Locke extracted himself from the first with minimal damage, however, thanks to a double-play ball by Aramis Ramirez that relieved some of the pressure. Carlos Gomez then grounded out, stranding Segura at third.
After getting through the second and third innings without allowing a run (nor a ball out of the infield), Locke gave up a solo home run to Ramirez in the fourth that landed deep in the left-center field section of the Pirates' bullpen.
In the fifth, the Brewers scored three runs on three hits and a walk. The rub here is that the inning featured three plays in left field that Starling Marte may have made, which would have ended the rally before it ended Locke's night. But Jose Tabata is no Marte, and the Brewers jumped out to a big lead, 5-0.
A mixture of misfortune and fair number of hard-hit balls brought Locke's outing to a close after only 77 pitches. Locke's final line for the night reads 4.2 innings pitched, eight hits, five earned runs, two walks and four strikeouts.
"You know, depends on how you look at things," Hurdle said of Locke's start. "The first inning he had two infield hits, the double play, they scratch out a run, the homer’s a homer. We had a chance at maybe making a play in left field where maybe you limit some damage, so it’s not where you’ve seen him in the past."
In the bottom of the fifth, the Pirates battled back scoring four runs, three of them coming on a bomb from Neil Walker that left PNC Park over the right field stands. Then, in the sixth, the Bucs tied it as Felix Pie capped a three-hit sequence that brought home Andrew Lambo.
With the score tied 5-5 heading into the seventh, the Brewers poked out to the lead again when Ramirez collected his fifth RBI of the evening on a single off Justin Wilson that scored Lucroy.
The Bucs struck right back in the bottom of the seventh when Pedro Alvarez knocked a 3-0 pitch off the right field foul pole, tying the game at 6-6.
The Brewers responded in the eighth, scoring what would be the game-winning run off of Bryan Morris. Yuniesky Betancourt reached base on a double and advanced to third on a bunt single by Scooter Gennett. Pinch hitter Caleb Gindl then hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Betancourt.
With tonight's loss, the Pirates are 6-11 in their last 17 games. They drop 1.5 games behind the Cardinals, who beat the Reds tonight, 6-1.
As the Locke's immediate future in the rotation, Hurdle said afterwards, "We’ll figure it out in the next day or two, sit down, and see what the take away from it is." It is my guess that, at the very least, Locke will be skipped once in the rotation. His next start would be Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
- After posting a 2.15 ERA for the first half of the season, Locke's ERA in the second half is now 6.17.
- Aramis Ramirez and Pedro Alvarez combined for eight hits, two home runs and five RBIs.
- Bryan Morris suffered his seventh loss of the season. He now has the second most losses on the Pirates' pitching staff.
- The Pirates collected 15 hits, their most since June 12 (the 3rd most hits in a game this season).