Pirates Notebook: Locke Struggles in Start; Walker Could Get Shut Down
With the Pirates taking ample looks at Jeff Locke in the rotation for the final month of the season, the rookie has shown flashes of good stuff. Pittsburgh’s rotation heading into the offseason has several possible vacant spots and Locke has an opportunity to prove that he belongs in it. In two of his four starts in the Majors this season, Locke has held the opposing team to three runs or less. However, in those other two, the left-hander allowed five runs in each.
Heading into his start on Wednesday, the biggest issue for Locke had been the long ball. Locke allowed six home runs over just 24.2 innings. But one great sign was his walk to strikeout ratio. Over his last four starts, Locke walked four while striking out 22 batters over 20.1 innings.
Locke didn’t have any issues with the long ball on Wednesday, but one big inning didn’t allow him to pitch deep into the ballgame. After cruising through the lineup the first time around — Locke struck out four batters over his first two innings, allowing one hit — the lefty got into a jam in the third and wasn’t able to escape it cleanly.
Locke battled some adversity in the third inning. There were several plays that could have been made, that could have given him a different outcome, but Locke wasn’t able to battle his way out of it before the game got away from him.
After Locke notched his fourth strikeout to start the third, Ruben Tejada picked up his second hit with one-out and quickly swiped second. The Pirates had him picked off, but Garrett Jones hit Tejada with his throw to second to allow him slide in safe. The runner came home to score the first run with a RBI single to center field.
David Wright followed with an infield single to third base. Pedro Alvarez fielded the ball, but his quick throw sailed past the first base bag and into foul territory for an error allowing the second run to score. The error proved to be costly as the Mets were able to plate two more runs off Locke. Jerry Hairston connected for the fourth straight knock off Locke, with an extra-base hit that was ripped down the left field line to drive in the third run. The fourth and final run scored with two-outs when Kelly Shoppach singled up the left side.
Locke came out to pitch the fourth, but was pulled with two outs for his shortest start in the big leagues this season.
Andres Torres led off the fourth with an infield single to short for the Mets’ seventh hit off the lefty. Torres advanced to second on the sac bunt and swiped third to put Locke in another jam for the second straight inning. Tejada lined a single off the glove of a diving Alvarez to drive in the fifth run. After getting Tejada picked off, a two-out hit from Murphy ended Locke’s outing. Hurdle went to Chris Leroux from the bullpen, who gave up back-to-back singles. The inning ended after Starling Marte’s cannon arm nailed Murphy at the plate.
Overall, Locke was charged with five runs on nine hits over 3.2 innings in his fifth start this season. He walked one and struck out five while throwing 70 pitches, 47 for strikes.
Pirates Considering Shutting Walker Down
Neil Walker missed his second straight game on Wednesday, after being scratched from the lineup on Tuesday. Walker’s low back tightness continues to keep him on a day-to-day basis, but Manager Clint Hurdle said prior to the game today that the Pirates are considering shutting the second baseman down for the rest of the season.
Wednesday was the first time since Walker returned to game action that he missed two straight contests. Walker has not yet been able to play in back-to-back games. The Pirates season has just seven games remaining, with the fourth game of the series on Thursday in New York before the travel home for the final six.
Walker had been playing on an every other day schedule since September 14th until this recent set back. The second baseman has hit for just a .200 clip over his last 10 games. Overall on the season, Walker is hitting for a .280/.342/.426 line with a career-high 12 home runs.
Morris Solid Since Promotion to Bigs
Like Locke, Bryan Morris has a huge opportunity to showcase himself in the final stretch of the 2012 season. The right-hander posted impressive numbers while with Triple-A this year — 2.67 ERA over 81 frames — and has carried over that success in the Majors.
In the Pirates loss on Wednesday, Morris tossed a perfect seventh inning. He needed just 10 pitches, eight for strikes, to plow through the inning. Morris notched back-to-back strikeouts — the first one looking on a 1-2 pitch — and a fly out.
Since making his Major League debut on September 14th in Chicago, Morris has allowed one earned run on two hits over four innings. Morris will enter spring training with a chance of breaking camp for the first time in his professional career. The righty reliever will be out of options, also helping his chances.
– With the 6-0 loss to New York, the Pirates have been officially eliminated from the postseason. They have to go 6-1 the final stretch of the season to finish above .500.