Bucs get another strong start
After a rocky first two innings in which he allowed three runs on five hits, Jeff Locke settled down and only allowed one hit through his next five innings of work. It's the second strong start in a row for the Bucs, whose starting pitchers have now retired 21 or more batters in 48 of 113 starts. They rank second in that category, three behind league-leading Cincinnati.
Clint Hurdle said that Locke pitched "as well as he's pitched all year.
"Good command of the fastball," Hurdle said. "Some good two-seamers, changeup played again. Curveball came into play. All his pitches were working."
"I've seen him pretty good at times," Russell Martin said. "But today he was mixing all three pitches very well. Besides that one pitch on the homer, he was pretty lights out ... Today was one of his best days as far as [throwing all his pitches]."
"I would categorize it up there [as one of my best starts]," Locke said. "Just because we gave up the runs early and anything can happen when you do that. It's easy to let things snowball. ... I learned more and felt more comfortable about tonight's start than I did about any start this season."
Russell Martin gets a call then provides a big hit in the seventh
In the seventh, with the Pirates clinging to a one-run lead, Martin came up with men on first and second and two outs. He fell behind 1-and-2, but ended up battling back into a full count before hitting a liner into left-center field for an RBI single. Pivotal to the at bat was a check swing that very easily could have been called a strike to end the inning.
Here is Martin's full description of the at bat, because it's always interesting to hear him discuss the inside aspects of the game:
First pitch was a fastball up. Second pitch was a fastball down away, sinking. Not my pitch so I took it. I think he threw a curveball for 1-and-2. Then he threw a slider, down and in, and that was a debatable check swing call right there that went our way. Every once in a while it's nice to have one of those go your way. And then [I] fouled off some tough pitches. But as soon as that call didn't go their way, I felt it was going to be difficult for him to remake that pitch. Plus, I had seen it. On 3-and-2, he challenged me with a fastball over the plate. I was then trying to battle both [the fastball and breaking ball], which you don't want to do. But when your back's against the wall, you try to protect a little bit. Just stayed compact. Wasn't really trying to drive the ball too much. Really trying to just put the barrel somehow on it. I worked my hands well enough to hit a line drive.
Melancon pitches the ninth with a four-run lead
After going with Jared Hughes and Justin Wilson to start the eighth inning last night in a one run game, Hurdle turned to Tony Watson and Mark Melancon with a four-run lead in the final two innings tonight.
Asked why he decided to use Melancon with a four-run lead tonight, Hurdle pointed to the need to get him some work.
"He hadn't pitched in three days," Hurdle said. "He threw Sunday, then had an off day. Didn't pitch last night. He's usually better served to keep him in some type of rhythm. If we had scored a couple of more runs, we may have opted for another direction."
Last night, Watson was unavailable because he had pitched in three games in a row, one in which the Pirates had a four-run lead. Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself.
Locke bats, then pulled. Watson bats, then pulled
In a couple of strange sequences, Hurdle let Locke and Watson bat and then pulled them for relievers. The decisions were a direct result of having a short bench, Hurdle said. One would think this issue needs to be remedied soon, as playing short-handed could have really caught up with the Bucs tonight.
Relatedly, Neil Walker was only available if there was an "emergency."