After topping right-hander Vance Worley in the spring battle for a rotation spot, lefty Jeff Locke took a good first step in solidifying that starting role in his first outing of the regular season, turning in six innings of two-run ball and leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-2 win over the host Milwaukee Brewers Friday night.
Pittsburgh (1-3) picked up its first win of the season thanks to a strong start by Locke and early offense – which was, once again, carried, in part, by the bat of Pedro Alvarez. The slugging first baseman drove in the first run of the game in the top of the second against Milwaukee starter Mike Fiers – and the Pirates never looked back from there.
Before the second came to a close, Clint Hurdle‘s club added two more runs – one coming on a sacrifice fly by Jordy Mercer – and the other via an RBI double off the bat of none other than Locke himself.
Fiers (0-1) served up a cannon ball to dead center to Alvarez in the top of the fourth, the second long-fly for the corner infielder on the young season. Co-editor Jason Rollison detailed the heavy contributions Alvarez has made to the Bucs’ offense in a piece – and it’s definitely worth a read ahead of Saturday’s action.
The Milwaukee right-hander made it through five innings, but allowed five earned on seven hits – while striking out eight. From there, four Brewers relievers combined to allow just one run in the final four frames, but the bats were never able to pull within striking distance.
Adam Lind, who has been on a tear to open his time in Milwaukee, pulled the team a bit closer early on with a two-run single off Locke in the bottom of the fourth – accounting for all of his team’s offense on the night.
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Starling Marte took over from there for the Pirates, scoring Andrew McCutchen on a sacrifice fly in the fifth before launching a solo blast off lefty Neal Cotts in the eighth to put the Bucs ahead 6-2.
McCutchen, meanwhile, left the game early with what is being called “left knee soreness”. It is unknown if it is related to the “lower body discomfort” he battled for most of Spring Training, but he looked off most of Friday night. His status for Saturday remains unclear.
What Stood Out
Locke pitched very well for the Pirates – and if he can bounce back after a sub-par 2014 season, he’ll go a long way in solidifying the Pittsburgh starting rotation this year. He’s just one year removed from an All-Star selection – and if he can not only perform well – but also consistently, he may be back on track in 2015.
Pittsburgh (1-3) will meet up with Milwaukee (0-4) again on Saturday behind right-hander Vance Worley (0-0, 0.00), who is making his first start of the season.
He will be opposed by Milwaukee right-hander Jimmy Nelson (0-0, 0.00). First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT at Miller Park.