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Gritty Locke, four-run fifth, and shut-down bullpen give Pirates 5-4 win over Diamondbacks

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Locke bent but didn't break, the offense exploded for four runs in the fifth, and the bullpen delivered 2.2 scoreless to protect a one-run lead and earn the Pirates a 5-4 win over the Diamondbacks. They will go for the series sweep tomorrow behind the hot hand of Gerrit Cole.

More than any other game in the series, the pitching matchup in this one looked favorable to the Diamondbacks, and the early innings reinforced that appearance. Rubby De La Rosa got in trouble in the first as the Pirates loaded the bases with one out on singles by Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco and an error by third baseman Jake Lamb on a grounder by Starling Marte. But De La Rosa escaped by striking out David Freese and retiring Sean Rodriguez, who started at second in place of the ailing Josh Harrison, on a liner to Lamb. He gave up a double to Chris Stewart in the second, a second opposite-field single to Polanco in the third, and a solo home run to Rodriguez in the fourth. But by that time, the Diamondbacks had built a lead against Locke that seemed likely to increase.

The pitch-to-contact Locke, as opposed to Locke the nibbler, was the one who showed up tonight. Twice in the first five innings, the contact left the yard. In the second with two outs, Locke walked Lamb, gave up an RBI double to Chris Owings, and then gave up a two-run homer to Yasmany Tomas on a low changeup. After the Rodriguez home run in the fourth brought the Pirates to within two, Rickie Weeks, Jr.'s home run off the left-field foul pole brought the Diamondbacks' lead back to three, 4-1. After that, though, Locke settled nicely by retiring the next five batters he faced, four on ground balls. He pitched into the seventh, notching only one strikeout but also issuing only the one walk to Lamb. It was the kind of blue-collar pitching performance that a good offensive team can turn into a win; and that they did.

John Jaso and McCutchen led off the fifth with singles and then Polanco, whose emergence as a force on the Pirates and in the National League continued with another three-hit night, crushed a 3-2 pitch to deep right center to score Jaso and move McCutchen to third. McCutchen scored on Marte's ground out, and then David Freese, who had heretofore left four runners on base, three in scoring position, delivered a majestic two-run homer 451 feet into the Pirates bullpen in center to put the Pirates ahead 5-4.

Another hopeful sign among many on this homestand was the success of Locke and the Pirates bullpen in turning a 5-4 lead after five into a 5-4 win. In the seventh with one out, Locke gave up a double on a line drive by Tomas that nicked off Polanco's glove in right, and Hurdle brought in Jared Hughes. Hughes then delivered his second consecutive Hugheslike performance after several this season that have been decidedly unHugheslike, retiring Philip Gosselin and Nick Ahmed on soft grounders.

Neftali Feliz in the eighth and Mark Melancon in the ninth received some assistance from Lady Luck in delivering two more zeroes. Feliz fell behind Weeks 3-0 and then gave up a single up the middle, bringing up the always terrifying Paul Goldschmidt. But Feliz countered with terror of his own, striking Goldschmidt out with a 98-mph fastball. Welington Castillo followed, and Feliz appeared to have struck him out as well, but the home-plate ump saw it differently. On the next pitch, Castillo scorched a line drive that fortunately landed right into the perfectly positioned Rodriguez's glove as Weeks strayed far enough from first base to be doubled up. In the ninth after two quick outs by Melancon, Owings hit a fly to deep right field that narrowly missed tying the game and instead went for a double. But Melancon was then able to retire Tomas on a can of corn to Polanco in right for the final out.

Another series win. Whatever happens tomorrow, it's been a damn good homestand.