Pirates' Locke outduels his mentor
PITTSBURGH — The mentee got the better of the mentor.
Conway, N.H.’s Jeff Locke pitched eight strong innings and catcher Russell Martin hit a two-run double in the first inning to key the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 6-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday and spoil A.J. Burnett’s return to Pittsburgh.
The Pirates took all three games to sweep the Phillies, the first of the season for Pittsburgh.
Locke (2-1) allowed just two runs — one earned — and three hits with four strikeouts and one walk. The left-hander raised his career record against the Phillies to 3-0 and the Pirates have won each of his last five starts.
Burnett, who was making his first start at PNC Park since leaving the Pirates for the Phillies as a free agent in the offseason, took Locke under his wing during his two years with the Pirates.
“The results weren’t there to win the ballgame on my end, but me going up against him and how he did, it makes me feel good,” Burnett said. “You see the way he’s throwing the ball, you see his approach, his confidence. You’ve got to tip your cap to the guy. He was on and he was pounding the strike zone.”
Burnett (5-8) allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings. He struck out seven and walked two.
Burnett, who won 26 games during his two years in Pittsburgh, received a warm ovation when he took the mound to start the bottom of the first inning.
“They made me feel at home,” Burnett said. “It caught me a little off guard, to be honest. I didn’t know what to expect. It was very nice. Very classy. It meant a lot.”
Locke and Burnett had lunch together Friday before the start of the series then spoke briefly before the game.
“It didn’t even feel like we were playing a Major League Baseball game,” Locke said. “Before we got in the bullpen, we just told each other to have fun today, go get ’em. Pound down. He did a great job. I threw the ball well and I guess that’s all you can really ask for.”
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen had two hits, including a triple that drove in the first run in a three-run eighth inning that put the game away.