The Pittsburgh Pirates accumulated more offense Tuesday night against the San Diego Padres, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Friars from moving to 30-10 all-time at PNC Park via a 5-2 victory. The Padres racked up 14 hits to the Pirates’ seven, and San Diego’s pitched four hitless innings to carry the victory home.
Jeff Locke (10-6) failed to carry over momentum from his last start against Chicago, when he allowed one run in seven innings, as he exited the game responsible for four runs on seven hits and three walks in five innings. Manager Clint Hurdle cited less consistency from Locke in this outing as the biggest reason he was unable to perform at the same level as he did in his last start.
“He had to grind it out tonight. He had some challenges establishing his fastball which is one of the staples,” Hurdle said. “He just wasn’t as sharp as his last time out.”
Opposite Locke, San Diego starter Eric Stults (9-13) also allowed seven hits but the Pirates only pushed a pair of runs across on a two-run single by Marlon Byrd in the third.
“He pitched, that’s all he does,” Byrd said. “He pitches. He did a great job tonight.”
The big blow against Locke was a three-run home run hit by second baseman Jedd Gyorko in the third, which gave San Diego a 3-0 lead as the game’s first scoring play.
“It’s frustrating to have two guys on base and then one pitch later everybody’s cashed in,” Locke said. “That’s frustrating, especially when you’ve been able to strand guys all year.”
Pittsburgh answered in the bottom half of the third when Locke led off with a bloop single down the left field line and Andrew McCutchen hit a book-rule double with two outs. Byrd followed with his single to score them both and pull Pittsburgh within a run at 3-2.
The Pirates had a chance to tie in the same inning but Marlon Byrd was thrown out at home when a ground ball off Gaby Sanchez’s bat was bobbled by Gyorko at second and Byrd turned home. Shortstop Ronny Cedeno picked it up and fired home to nail Byrd and end the frame.
“We’re struggling to score runs,” Hurdle said. “We tried to plate the third one there to get right back into it and they were able to collect the bobble and get a throw to the plate to get us.”
From the third through the end of the game, though, the bats were quiet. Stults pitched a clean fourth and stranded a pair in the fifth to finish his five innings in line for a victory.
“The change of speeds, the location, that’s one of those guys he knows how to pitch,” Hurdle said.
Tim Stauffer followed Stults with two hitless innings, Nick Vincent pitched a perfect eighth, and Luke Gregerson worked around a two-out walk to Neil Walker for his fourth save of the season. Against the Padres’ bullpen, the Pirates placed just two runners on-base when Marte was hit with a pitch from Stauffer in the seventh and Walker walked.
”Spin, command, they kept the ball down. We didn’t get a ball out of the infield after the third inning, the one foul ball that we hit,” Hurdle said. “Their infielders were ready, they were making plays, we couldn’t get the ball. Not a lot of pitches elevated for us to get the backside and ride or drive.”
One positive for the Pirates came in the return of Starling Marte to the lineup Tuesday. Marte finished 1-for-3, was hit with a pitch, and reached on a bunt single.
“I think he let the bat go, he swung it, he looked for a bunt when it was there,” Hurdle said. “No complaints, he got after it. Good start forward for him.”
While San Diego’s pitchers were able to execute against Pittsburgh’s bats for the second consecutive night, Hurdle puts the onus of the lackluster offense on the bats themselves.
“At the end of the day we’ve got to continue to work hard to get the most we can out of the offense, to maximize the at-bats, connect the dots in innings, and find a way to do more,” Hurdle said. “We’ve marked them one inning in the last 18, we know the challenge is there, we’ve got to do a better job on offense.”