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Insider Only Pirates – Giants Reactions: Trouble continues for Jeff Locke when falling behind in counts


By John Perrotto
Jeff Locke thought he had pulled out of funk last Sunday when he held the National League East-leading Mets to one run in 5 1/3 innings at New York.
The Pirates left-hander fell right back into it Friday night in a 6-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park. Locke (6-8) was ripped for six runs and 11 hits in five innings while striking out two and walking one.
Locke has failed to pitch at least six innings in any of his last six starts, going 1-2 with a 6.39 ERA in that span.
“I didn’t really ever get settled in,” Locke said. “It’s not like they’re going to give any at-bats away, either. They play a very similar offense to the way we do. So any given night that team can go out there and be aggressive just like we can.
“I just never really got in any kind of groove. It’s no one’s fault but (my) own.”
The Giants ambushed Locke, building a 5-1 lead by the middle of the second inning in large part two-run home runs by newly acquired right fielder Marlon Byrd in the first and winning pitcher Madison Bumgarner.
Byrd continues to own Locke as he is 8-for-17 with three homers off him.
However, the home run by Bumgarner — on a 3-1 count, no less — hurt, even though the left-hander has five this season, the most by a major league pitcher since Carlos Zambrano went deep six times in 2006 for the Chicago Cubs.
“That ball was loud,” Byrd, who the Giants acquired Thursday night from the Cincinnati Reds, said in admiration of his new teammate’s home run.
“Obviously everybody knows what he can do at the plate,” Locke said. “To me he’s still the weakest hitter in their lineup, that’s the way you’ve got to look at it. He’s still in the pitcher’s spot. He’s still going to swing at some bad pitches from time to time, just like anybody else. He might be a pitcher but he’s still in a major-league uniform, in the lineup trying to hurt me.
“You can’t fall behind guys, especially aggressive guys like him. He just put a good swing on one tonight.”
Falling behind has been a problem for Locke. Opponents are hitting .319 off him when they open an at bat by drawing a ball but just .212 when he throws a first-pitch strike.
“There’s games I’ve pitched before where you can get ahead of everybody and not put anybody away or not get ahead of anybody at all and they just roll into 2-0 groundballs,” Locke said. “There’s a lot of different ways to look at it. That’s why it’s three strikes and not just one.”
–The Pirates scored single runs off Bumgarner in the each of the first two innings but then he retired 13 batters in a row until Michael Morse led off the seventh with a double.
Though Bumgarner improved his record to 15-6 and tied Chicago Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta
for the National League lead in wins, the Pirates felt they let hit off the hook. Bumgarner wasn’t nearly as sharp as when he pitched a four-hit shutout at PNC Park in last year’s National League wild card playoff game.
“We had a couple push situations on him early,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We were able to chip him for a run in the first two innings and some opportunities to add on, we weren’t able to push through on those.
“He attacked us in a different way we hadn’t seen before. Breaking balls, the changeup played more of that. We just couldn’t get that big push inning off of him early.”
Josh Harrison had just one hit in 19 at bats on his rehab assignment at Class AAA Indianapolis.
However, his .053 batting average was of no concern to the infielder/outfielder. He was confident his injured left thumb had healed.
Thus, the Pirate activated Harrison from the 15-day disabled list Friday night prior to their 6-4 loss the San Francisco Giants. Harrison played second base and batted leadoff, going 0-for-2 and getting hit by a pitch before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning.
“In the first couple of at bats, you’re thinking about how it’s going to feel with the vibration, how’s it going to feel if I’m jammed,” Harrison said of his rehab assignment. “It felt like it normally would have. If you caught the ball in the middle of your palm, it hurt like it did before. It was a positive experience for me.”
Primarily the Pirates’ third baseman before being injured, Harrison started at second base for just sidelined the 13th time this season.
Neil Walker sat out against Giants left-hander Bumgarner – though he hit a sacrifice fly off him in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter — continuing Hurdle’s trend of keeping the switch-hitting second baseman away from lefties.
Walker is hitting just .240 with no home runs in 75 at-bats against lefties this season compared to a .274 average and 13 homers in 351 at-bats against righties.
Hurdle would not commit to Harrison playing any one position on a regular basis but wants him in the lineup on a regular basis.
“He brings a spark to our lineup and his glove plays anywhere,” Hurdle said.

–Shortstop Jordy Mercer could be activated for Sunday night’s game against San Francisco.
Mercer, who has been on the DL since July 20 with a sprained right knee, is 5-for-21 (.238) with one home run in six games on his rehab assignment with Indianapolis.
He is scheduled pay again Saturday and then be reevaluated.
–Right-handed reliever Josh Wall was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Harrison.
Wall was called up from Indianapolis on Wednesday to provide bullpen depth a day after the Pirates won in 15 innings over the Arizona Diamondbacks but did not appear in any games.

About The Author

John Perrotto

Pirates Insider

John Perrotto is a contributor to Inside Pittsburgh Sports, covering the Pittsburgh Pirates, MLB. John has covered the Pirates for over 20+ seasons and is an exclusive member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

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