Pirates' pitching staff comes up big in 2-0 victory over Phillies

| Tuesday, April 23, 2013, 10:00 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — With runners on first and second and one out in the fourth inning and the Pirates leading by one, left-hander Jeff Locke got Phillies catcher Erik Kratz to ground to third for an inning-ending double play.

The crowd of 31,002 on a cold Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park voiced its displeasure.

Locke had done what he needed to do, just as he did two innings earlier when he struck out Jimmy Rollins with two outs and runners on second and third.

The Pirates held their slim 1-0 lead until the eighth inning, when Gaby Sanchez hit a home run to right field off Cole Hamels. The bullpen picked up where Locke left off, and the Pirates held on for a 2-0 win.

“That's his best big league performance,” manager Clint Hurdle said of Locke. “By far, that was just really good. He had to battle and he had to compete and he had to get out of a jam, so there was a little bit of everything, and at the end of the day, he gave up zero runs and two hits. You tip your cap to that young man.”

Tony Watson pitched one scoreless inning to set up Mark Melancon in the eighth and Jason Grilli in the ninth.

Melancon put runners on first and second, but Ryan Howard grounded out to end the eighth. Grilli retired all three batters for his eighth save of the season.

The Pirates are now 10-0 when leading after seven innings.

It was an unlikely showdown between Locke (2-1), making his 14th career start and first against the Phillies, and the veteran Hamels (0-3), who had given up just four runs in his past 13 innings.

Brandon Inge staked the Pirates to a 1-0 lead when he tagged Hamels for a double to center field in the fourth inning to drive in Neil Walker, who had singled.

Inge, making his Pirates debut, did exactly what Hurdle said before the game he hoped he would: provide offense against a left-hander.

After working out of trouble in the bottom of the fourth, Locke retired the next six batters. In all, he allowed two hits in six innings and finished with two walks and six strikeouts. Against a tough lineup with his team clinging to a one-run lead, it was a commanding performance that ended with John Mayberry Jr., looking at a strike.

Hurdle said it was the most competitive he has seen Locke in a start, and the 25-year-old agreed.

“I would say for sure,” Locke said. “I felt like I was more efficient tonight than any other game I've pitched at this level. It's something to keep building off.”

Locke was able to get ahead of batters, an area in which he struggled during his first three outings, and he got better and more efficient as the game progressed.

“He made pitches. He flat out made pitches,” Hurdle said. “He used the changeup extremely well to both right-handers and left-handers, sprinkled in some curveballs that had angle and bite, and the fastball was used to all four corners. The two-seamer was a big pitch for him. It really played well.”

Both teams failed to do anything with runners in scoring position. After going 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position in a 3-2 loss the night before, the Pirates were 0 for 13 on Tuesday. The Phillies finished 0 for 5.

Hamels pitched through the eighth, allowing two runs on seven hits. He struck out six and threw 118 pitches.

Catcher Russell Martin singled in the eighth to extend his hitting streak to eight games. The Pirates saw their 41-inning errorless streak end when left fielder Starling Marte was charged in the second inning.

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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