Home plate umpire Lance Barrett helped Jeff Locke to an eight-strikeout performance over six scoreless innings as the Pirates defeated the Rockies 6-1 Monday night.
When Locke has a good outing, I don't want to sully it by suggesting he isn't wholly responsible. Tonight, though, I have to credit Barrett, whose strike zone was about as wide as Rhode Island. If nothing else, tonight proved that with an infinitely wide zone, nibbler extraordinaire Jeff Locke can pretty much pitch with the best of 'em. Clayton Kershaw basically equals Jeff Locke minus about eight inches of home plate.
Barrett called some favorable pitches for opposing starter Chad Bettis too, but the wide zone seemed especially beneficial to Locke, who lives on the edges of the plate. Via PiratesUmp, three of Locke's five called strikeouts came on pitches outside the zone. You could forgive Ryan Raburn (the victim of one of those whiffs) and Rockies manager Walt Weiss for getting themselves ejected. Via Brooks Baseball, here's Locke's strike zone for the night. You can see about as many called strikes out of the zone as you see in it.
Anyway, there was a brief rain delay in there, and it wasn't until very late in the evening and the fifth inning when the Pirates finally started scoring, Josh Harrison got hit by a pitch and Jordy Mercer singled. Both runners moved up on Locke's sacrifice, and Harrison scored on John Jaso's groundout. The Bucs then exploded in the seventh, as Gregory Polanco singled, Jason Rogers pinch-hit for Locke and walked, Polanco scored on a wild pitch, and Jaso walked. Then Matt Joyce, as if suddenly realizing the Pirates were playing in Denver, blasted off to left-center for a three-run homer. The Rockies got one back in the bottom of the inning, but the Bucs scored again in the eighth on a Polanco double and a Harrison single. A.J. Schugel pitched 2.1 scoreless innings to finish out the game.
This one, though, belonged largely to Joyce, Locke and Barrett, and you can apportion credit to the last two as you please. From my perspective, it's hard to see this outing as a big step forward for Locke after a tough start to his season. He just got too much help.