Jeff Locke was not even supposed to pitch Friday night, but he came prepared, needing just 75 pitches to pitch seven scoreless innings in a 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.While sell crowd of 36,878 at PNC Park may have been disappointed with the quick hook, it is part of Manager Clint Hurdle’s new philosophy of ignoring pitch counts while telling his starters to go seven innings, which is exactly what rookie lefty Locke did.
Locke first faced Yasiel Puig and allowed a bunt single but from there got Nick Punto to ground into a routine double play. From there, it felt as though he was in total control.
The Pirates succeeded in making Dodgers rookie pitcher Stephen Fife throw 93 pitches in five innings. Despite threatening by having the opening two batters reach base in the second inning, the Pirates did not score there. Ultimately it only delayed the inevitable as they would score the following inning.
In that third, the first two runners once again reached base as Alex Presley had an infield single which was followed by a Russell Martin single. Andrew McCutchen then came up and laced a double to right field to plate both runners.
Last season, it was James McDonald that had a first half to remember, and this year Locke is following in his footsteps. The lone healthy pitcher from this season’s Opening Day rotation, Locke has come a long way since his early April struggles to consistently throw strikes. His command to both sides of the plate seemed to excite Hurdle and confuse Dodgers hitters. Locke struck out five hitters while allowing three base runners in his seven innings.
It is very possible that Locke also went out so that Mark Melancon could come in and get a look. Seeing his first action in a week, Melancon needed 20 pitches to set down the Dodgers in the eighth inning. The inning featured two hits but also two strikeouts to end the threat.
Matt Guerrier started the ninth inning for the Dodgers, however did not record an out with his four pitches as McCutchen singled and advanced to third base on a Gaby Sanchez single. Guerrier was replaced by Paco Rodriguez, who allowed McCutchen to score when Walker had a high pop-up in foul territory that was caught by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez’s back was to the plate and Sanchez was able to advance to second base, however he would not score.
Jason Grilli came in to close the ninth inning and allowed the first two hitters to reach. Still, he rallied to get his 24th save of the season in as many chances.
The Pirates will face the Dodgers again Saturday at 4:05 ET. Clayton Kershaw (5-4, 1.88 ERA) will face Brandon Cumpton, who is making his first career start with A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez both on the disabled list.
“He’s developed organizationally,” Hurdle said to reporters about Cumpton. “A three-pitch guy. Eight of his last nine outings he’s given up two earned runs or less. Averages six-plus innings. Strikeout to walk ratio about two-to-one. Strike thrower. Moves the ball to both sides of the plate. Spin it. Change speeds. He’s a competitor.
In addition, Blues Traveler will perform after the game.
Burnett told reporters today that he suffered a Grade 1 calf tear. The injury Wednesday when started running as part of his routine in between starts. Burnett is now in a walking boot.
“I kind of wish I’d done it goofing off,” Burnett told reporters. “I was just doing my normal running. I went to slow down and decelerate and felt a pop. It was a cramp at first; I felt something and it cramped up.
Starling Marte remains day to day.
Sunday’s game will be shown on TBS and is subject to local blackout. Gerrit Cole will start the game for the Pirates and Cal Ripken Jr. and John Smoltz will be color commentators.