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Battling Bucs bail out Locke, earn sweep
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke (49) delivers a pitch against the Colorado Rockies during the first inning at PNC Park on Sunday. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Andrew McCutchen knocked in the go-ahead run with a single in the seventh and Neil Walker added insurance two batters later with his 14th home run to propel the Pirates to a 5-3 victory and a three-game sweep.
Walker finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored while leading his team to its second series sweep of the year and the third comeback victory in as many games.
“You’ve got to be a able to put games away and it’s frustrating,” manager Walt Weiss said.
Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke, a product of Conway, N.H., and Kennett High School, began his start in an uncharacteristic fashion when he walked the first batter he faced, left fielder Brandon Barnes. Shortstop Josh Rutledge then hit a two-run homer for an early 2-0 lead.
In his first two innings of the second half, Locke allowed nearly as many home runs (two) as he did in eight first-half starts.
Despite falling into a “bad spot,” the Pirates kept their focus off the scoreboard.
“If you get too caught up in the score or too caught up in things that are out of your control it’s going to lead to pressing and trying to do too much,” Walker said. “We do a good job of not doing that around there.”
“We’re going to be aggressive,” Walker said. “We’re going to get thrown out, we’re going to look stupid at times, but at the same time we’re going to make aggressive plays that lead to runs. Some people may call it stupid, we call it aggressive.”
Locke worked six innings and gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks.
Colorado starter Tyler Matzek worked through six innings for the fifth consecutive start, and posted a quality start for the fourth time out of his last five outing.
Matzek allowed three runs on seven hits, walked three and struck a career-high eight hitters.
Matt Belisle (2-6) entered to work the seventh and was unable to finish the inning, leaving after he recorded two outs and was charged with two runs. He walked the leadoff man, Josh Harrison, who stole second and scored on McCutchen’s single.
“Today was amateur,” Belisle said. “As far as what not to do.”
Jeanmar Gomez (2-2) gave up a hit and a walk but pitched a scoreless seventh in the away half to earn the victory for Pittsburgh.