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Postgame: Jeff Locke struggles with command, bullpen roughed up again

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With tonight's 8-4 loss, the Pirates have lost four in a row, and six of their last seven. They drop below .500 for the first time this season.

For all the talk about the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position, the real culprit of late has been pitching. The Pirates have allowed 30 runs in the last four games. The starters aren't getting deep into games and the bullpen has had a terrible week.

"You get things in the rotation that got a little complicated for us," Clint Hurdle said. "[Juan] Nicasio's three-inning outing, spot starts, that changes the entire dynamic. You end up using your ‘pen when you have to, not when you want to."

Locke walks seven

Jeff Locke struggled with his command throughout his 4 2/3 innings and was very fortunate to escape the evening giving up only three runs (two earned). He allowed five hits and walked seven.

"His command wasn't where we needed it to be," Clint Hurdle said. "We got some ideas on some things, we're going to work on tomorrow."

Locke walked the leadoff hitter in each of the first four innings. Two of those runners eventually came around to score.

All the walks contributed to a very slowly played and ugly game. It took 3:30 to play, with 14 walks and 19 hits distributed between the two teams

"There's games it's just frustrating to be a part of, especially when you're the one that's causing it, Locke said. "It's a tough game to watch wherever you are, especially when you're out on the mound."

Braun blasts two

Ryan Braun put on a show by knocking two towering home runs. In the sixth, he hit a mammoth two-run home run off the batter's eye in centerfield. The ball traveled an estimated 460 feet. Braun is jeered every time he comes to the plate at PNC Park, and the booing only grew louder after his first home run. When he came to bat in the eighth, he was a met with a very loud and enthusiastic "STER-OIDS" chant. He promptly powered his second home run of the evening into the bushes in centerfield.

"They're one of the best team's in baseball with one of the best offenses in the league, so you know no lead is safe especially here," Braun said. "So all the tack-on runs we could get were important."

Braun went on to joke that the wind, which appeared to be blowing in all evening, suddenly changed direction when he came to the plate in the sixth and eighth.

Bullpen struggles again.

The Pirates' bullpen had another disastrous night, allowing five more runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched. Their relievers collected two more meltdowns, running their season total to nine.

"You're just not getting the results you want and you think you can get," Hurdle said. "So you're going to keep feeding them the ball and keep working with them, keep getting better. We've given up a lot of runs here the first part of the season."

Pirates relievers now have a collective 5.49 ERA. The staff as a whole is averaging 4.58 walks a game, which is the second highest in baseball.