After giving up back-to-back singles and throwing eight straight fastballs to start the game, Jeff Locke began mixing his pitches and did just about everything right the rest of the way. He displayed excellent control, throwing 68 strikes on 99 pitches (69 strike percentage) and not allowing a walk in his eight innings pitched. His changeup served as his strikeout pitch early in the game and complimented his fastball all night. His curveball command was excellent (13 strikes on 15 pitches), and it was perhaps the most effective use of the pitch we seen from him. Finally, he kept the ball on the ground, inducing 10 groundouts.
"The game started with the third hitter and then he put a foot down," Clint Hurdle said. "Fastball command was good. He mixed in the curveball which played for him extremely well and the changeup. Each pitch fed off the other pitch. It was a really well pitched game."
Locke performance resulted in a 76 game score - the highest this season for a Bucs starter.
"I threw some good curveballs," Locke said. "That's a pitch that you don't know if it's going to be there every night. Some guys like A.J. [Burnett], they know. But when it's not your main pitch you don't know where it's going to be all the time. So, it's kind of a feel thing for me."
Locke explained that fastball command was the key to setting up the changeup, and something that he's worked on.
"I think moving the fastball in and the changeup away, and then being able to move the fastball down and away for strikes is something that we worked on a lot in camp, too," Locke said. "Last game we didn't go away a lot, so it's like adding another pitch."
"When all those pitches are clicking, you feel like you can do whatever you want as long as it's down," Locke said.
Marte sparks offense ... again
For the second game in a row, Starling Marte provided spark to the offense and hit the big blow of the game. Tonight, he hit a line drive single in the first, which drove home two runs and put the Bucs up 3-1. Later in the fifth, he hit a three run blast to bulge the Pirates lead to 6-1.
"When you look where he was four nights ago and look at him tonight, five RBIs, big swings, very productive night for him," Hurdle said.
After only driving in two runs in his first 33 plate appearances, Marte has seven RBIs in his last eight plate appearances.
His five RBIs tonight are the highest single game total of his career.
McCutchen hit by pitch; Braun too
Andrew McCutchen was hit by a pitch for the second time of the season tonight. The pitch was high-and-inside and caught him on the shoulder.
In the top of the ninth, Arquimedes Caminero hit Ryan Braun with a pitch in the leg.
Heading into tonight's game, the Pirates pitching staff has averaged the highest fastball velocity in the majors, 94.1 MPH. The bullpen's average velocity is 94.7 MPH, also highest in the in league. In fact, both velocities rank the highest (relievers tied for first) recorded by Fangraphs over the history of the statistic.
We knew that the Pirates staff was packed with hard throwers and so far that has panned out. It'll be interesting to see if these numbers and rankings hold throughout the season.