Chris Carter opened the second by drawing a four pitch walk, but Locke left him there, aided by a nice running grab by Starling Marte in center. But he's only thrown one first-pitch strike through two, and working from behind in the count will catch up to him if he doesn't get more aggressive. Pedro drew a two out walk for the Pirates. The Fort got ahead 2-1 and was rewarded with a heater down the middle, but he could only bounce it to short to finish the frame.
Brandon Barnes drew a two out walk in the third on a borderline call, but no diff; he was caught stealing - yay Fort! The Bucs went down in order; plate ump Todd Tichenor's corner strike zone is pretty inconsistent both ways so far. Locke cruised through the fourth, as did Harrell. The Bucs haven't hit a ball out of the infield yet today. Locke is at 51 pitches and Harrell 58, so they both should have plenty left in the tank yet.
Carlos Corporan collected the game's first knock, rolling a ball through the right side to start the fifth. The next trio of 'Stros tried out Clint Barmes and lost, as he made two nice plays in the hole and one routine grab to sit Houston down. Pedro Alvarez lined a one out shot the opposite way for a homer off a fastball away, landing a couple of feet inside the foul pole to make it 1-0; it was the first ball out hit out of the infield for the Pirates. The Fort added a single; it turned the order over for the sixth.
Harrell tried to help his own cause by singling into center to start the sixth. A bunt moved him to second, but there he stayed after a comebacker and soft liner to center. Travis Snider doubled with an out, and with two away tried to score on Gaby's laser to center, but the throw beat him as he lowered a shoulder into Corporan, who hung on for the out.
Chris Carter became the fourth leadoff runner the Astros got aboard when he lined a single over short to open the seventh. It took Locke 13 more pitches, but he ended up spic 'n' span with a K and 6-4-3 DP. He went seven shoutout frames, giving up three hits, two walks and fanning four after 94 pitches. The Bucs went down in order, but Pedro came close to adding an insurance run when Barnes climbed the wall by the bullpen to haul in his shot.
Mark Melancon got the call as the Back End Boys were back on the clock. No seeing eye singles today; he got a lazy fly, swinging K and a sweet tumbling, running grab of a bloop by Marte for a perfect eighth. Hector Ambriz put Pittsburgh away in order, and on trotted Jason Grilli to face the top of Houston's order. A punch out, ground out and pop up later, he had the MLB lead in saves at 17 and Jeff Locke had his fourth win.
This game was day and night from the opening pair; it was well pitched and well played all the way around. Harrell stayed on the edges all day, and Locke kept the ball down and mostly out of the middle after the first couple of frames. Some noise is being made because his ERA of 2.73 far outperforms his FIP of 4.47; but FIP only measures walks and whiffs, not hits, and so far low hit outings have been Locke's forte. He's given up 39 in 52-1/3 IP.
The Bucs take another series and have tomorrow off to work on their grill game. Then the Cubs come to town for three, and a tough few series follow to close out May against the Brewers, Tigers, and Reds, with a brutal June awaiting them.
- Jeff Locke's gone 5-of-6 in starts giving up three or fewer hits, and his seven inning outing equaled the longest of the year for him, matching an April 28th start against St. Louis.
- Today's crowd was 28,471, for a total of 90,000 fans for the weekend Astro series.
- Cutch was a late scratch today with soreness in his right knee. It's thought to be a day-to-day issue, and by sitting out this game with tomorrow scheduled off, two days rest is hoped to be the cure.
- James McDonald is tentatively scheduled to go to Altoona and make his first rehab start on Memorial Day.
- Ronny Cedeno was supposed to start for Houston today and was in the original lineup, but was erased from the card because of a lingering sinus infection.
- Bad day in the office for Gerritt Cole at Indy. He went 5-2/3 IP, giving up eight runs on six hits and three walks with four K, tossing 103 pitches.
- Jameson Taillon's Altoona line: six innings, three runs on nine hits and three walks with ten K.
- Altoona 1B Alex Dickerson had to be taken off the field in an ambulance after a collision at first. The trip is a precautionary measure to check for for possible neck/concussion issues.