The Times West Virginian

Sports

June 15, 2013

Pirates, Locke shut down Dodgers, 3-0

PITTSBURGH — Jeff Locke allowed just two hits over seven innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates edged the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-0 on Friday night.

Locke (6-1) struck out five and walked one to win his sixth straight decision while shaving his ERA to 2.19. Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run double in the third inning off Stephen Fife (1-2).

Jason Grilli worked out of a two-on, no-out jam in the ninth for his National League-leading 24th save.

The Dodgers played without manager Don Mattingly, who served a one-game suspension for his role in the brawl with Arizona earlier in the week. Bench coach Trey Hillman filled in for Mattingly. Los Angeles has lost five of six to fall a season-worst 10 games under .500 (28-38).

Los Angeles had chances in the eighth and ninth innings. Pittsburgh reliever Mark Melancon struck out pinch-hitter Juan Uribe with runners in scoring position in the eighth.

Yaisel Puig and Nick Punto hit consecutive singles off Grilli to start the ninth. Grilli then retired Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Mark Ellis to remain a perfect 24 for 24 in save opportunities.

Puig finished 2 for 4, including a bunt single leading off the game. He was quickly retired on a double play as Locke continued his unlikely ascension into the role of ace.

The 25-year-old left-hander began the season as the fifth starter and lost his first game of the year, a 6-2 defeat in Los Angeles on April 10. He hasn’t been beaten since and appears to be growing stronger each time he takes the hill, a welcome development for a starting rotation in tatters.

A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald and Jeanmar Gomez are all on the disabled list, leaving Locke and veteran Francisco Liriano as the top-end starters for one of baseball’s biggest first-half surprises.

If the spotlight is getting to Locke, it doesn’t show.

Deftly changing speeds and working both sides of the plate, Locke needed just 75 pitches to get 21 outs. The Dodgers didn’t even get a runner to second against him, every baserunner either stranded at first or getting forced out in a double play.

McCutchen gave the Pirates all the offense they would need when he doubled to the corner in right field in the third, scoring Alex Presley and Russell Martin. Fife, making just his fourth start of the season, settled down and escaped without further damage when McCutchen was gunned down at home trying to score on a ground ball and Clint Barmes flew out to left with the bases loaded later in the inning.

Fife gave up six hits in five innings, walking three and striking out four.

Locke had little trouble getting through seven before turning things over to Pittsburgh’s dominant bullpen, though Melancon ran into trouble during his first appearance in a week.

Andre Ethier singled with one out and Jerry Hairston Jr. doubled to the gap in left-center one batter later. Ethier held up at third rather than try to score, and it cost the Dodgers when pinch-hitter Juan Uribe struck out.

Pittsburgh added an insurance run when McCutchen singled leading off the bottom of the eighth and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Neil Walker.

Grilli made it stand up against the meat of Los Angeles’ lineup.

NOTES: Locke singled off Fife in the third to end an 0-for-30 skid dating to last season ... Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis went 0 for 3 with 3 strikeouts in his return from the disabled list. He also threw out two would-be base stealers. Ellis missed 14 games with a strained oblique. To make room for Ellis, Los Angeles designated C Ramon Hernandez for assignment. Hernandez hit .208 with three homers and six RBIs in 17 games with the Dodgers ... The series continues on Saturday when rookie Brandon Cumpton makes his major league debut for the Pirates, replacing Burnett. Clayton Kershaw (5-4, 1.88 ERA) starts for Los Angeles ... Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell pitched two perfect innings in relief. Howell is appealing a two-game suspension for his role in the brawl with the Diamondbacks. Reliever Ronald Belisario sat out to serve his one-game suspension.

 

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