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Locke's difficulties continue thanks to old friends

| Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, 8:57 p.m.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle walks to the mound to take pitcher Jeff Locke out of the game during the sixth inning Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Phoenix.

PHOENIX — Imagine Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke's surprise Thursday night when Andy Marte stepped in to pinch hit for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the sixth inning of a tie game.

“I didn't even know he was on the team,” Locke said with a shrug. “I had no idea. I hadn't even seen him since I was in (Atlanta) Braves camp (in 2005).”

Marte, a 30-year-old backup infielder, hadn't taken a swing in the big leagues since 2010, when he was with the Cleveland Indians. The Diamondbacks called him up from the minors a few hours before the game.

Locke threw a first-pitch fastball, and Marte watched it for strike one. Locke came back with a fat changeup, and Marte whacked it into the left-field seats.

The two-run shot gave the Diamondbacks a 5-3 lead. Two batters later, 32-year-old Aaron Hill clubbed a solo homer, putting Locke and the Pirates on the fast track to a 7-4 loss.

Completing this Throwback Thursday was Diamondbacks reliever Oliver Perez — the lefty who was a 12-game winner with the Pirates a decade ago. Perez, who at 32 is racking up playing time toward an MLB pension by toiling in the bullpen, tossed two-thirds of an inning to pick up the win.

As Arizona's old-timers were sprinting around the bases, it was Locke, 26, who seemed like a geezer. After the game, Locke, who yielded six runs and nine hits in 5 13 innings, said he simply ran out of gas.

“It was a combination of sitting for just a minute (between innings), not making pitches and being a little fatigued at the end,” he said.

Locke faced 19 batters and gave up three runs over the third, fourth and fifth innings. He didn't get a lot of down time in that span, as Arizona right-hander Josh Collmenter zipped through those innings with just 37 pitches.

“We had some innings that went on longer than we needed them to go,” said Locke, who threw 104 pitches.

Only four of the runs against Locke were earned, thanks to shoddy defense in the fourth inning.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Locke got Collmenter to hit a grounder to the left side. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez had all day to throw the ball — Collmenter is a pitcher and runs like one — so he took a step, paused, double-clutched ... and threw the ball into the dirt near the first-base bag.

Ike Davis got his glove on it but could not make the catch. Davis was charged with the error, and two runs scored.

“We were in position to put the inning away,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We didn't.”

It was Locke's second rough outing in a row. A week ago in Colorado, he was tagged for six runs in 6 23 innings against the Rockies.

Could some of his fatigue problem be due to the long road trip in high-altitude conditions?

“I don't know too much about stuff like that,” Locke said. “I just look at it as two poor games. I had two handfuls of great ones and then two poor ones in a row. They kind of stand out when they go back to back like that.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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