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Locke outduels mentor Burnett as Pirates sweep Phillies

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Sunday, July 6, 2014, 4:39 p.m.
 

The pupil upstaged the mentor Sunday in a Pirates' 6-2 victory.

Last season, Jeff Locke shadowed A.J. Burnett. Wherever Burnett was, whether in the bullpen or the clubhouse dining room, Locke was near. The young left-hander observed how Burnett pitched. He asked questions about the veteran's approach. As Burnett returned to the PNC Park mound Sunday, they faced each other for the first time. They shared a quick pre-game embrace as they walked to their respective bullpens when Burnett offered more advice.

“We said a few short words before the game,” Locke said. “(Burnett) said ‘Have fun. Embrace it.' ”

Locke embraced it. And Locke demonstrated he was an excellent student. In securing the Pirates' first sweep of the season, he allowed one earned run and three hits over eight innings.

While Locke was excellent, Burnett was the early story.

As he approached the mound after the top of the first inning, Burnett was greeted with a rousing ovation from 33,048. A package of his Pirates' highlights played on the stadium video board. Burnett watched the video before beginning his warm-up throws. He waved his cap to the crowd and toward the Pirates' dugout.

“The video caught me by surprise,” Burnett said. “It was very moving, for sure. It made me feel at home. (The ovation) caught me off guard. I didn't know what to expect coming in. Very classy.”

The rest of the afternoon was all about Locke.

Locke posted his sixth straight quality start and outpitched Burnett, who allowed three runs in seven innings. Locke is pitching well enough to make sending him back to Triple-A a difficult decision.

Has Locke forced his way in the rotation?

“Question for another day,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I really like the way he's pitching.”

Burnett's impact on Locke's resurgence is apparent. Burnett's trademark pitch, taught to him by his grandfather, is the knuckle-curveball. Locke struck out Cody Asche with a knuckle-curve to begin the second.

“We spent a lot of time last year refining, trying to get me to throw a consistent enough curveball that I felt good with,” Locke said. “We would compete even playing catch last year, trying to throw a great curveball.”

Last season, Locke saw how Burnett owned the inside half of the plate with his two-seam fastball. Locke pitched inside without fear Sunday. He had a superb 15-to-1 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio.

“I was throwing two-seamers in, he was throwing two-seamers in,” Locke said. “He taught me a lot about how to attack people.”

Locke has evolved since Burnett has departed. His changeup is better. In the second, Locke got Cameron Rupp to swing and miss on a changeup that had so much fading action, it looked like a screwball.

What Locke has also done post-Burnett is throw more strikes. After control issues contributed to his lackluster second half last season, Locke has pounded the strike zone. He walked just one Sunday and has walked six in 49 23 innings since being recalled from Triple-A.

Locke allowed just two runs. Pedro Alvarez's major league-worst 18th error of the season allowed Jimmy Rollins to reach second and later score on a Marlon Byrd single in the first. Byrd also homered in the seventh.

Locke was supported by Russell Martin's two-run double in the first, and Josh Harrison tripled and scored in the third.

“Tip your cap to (Locke) today,” Burnett said. “He was on. He's been on his last couple starts. … I think he's always had it in him.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke delivers to the plate during the first inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke delivers to the plate during the first inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett doffs his cap towards the Pirates dugout after taking the mound in the first inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett doffs his cap towards the Pirates dugout after taking the mound in the first inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates left fielder Josh Harrison scores past Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp during the third inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates left fielder Josh Harrison scores past Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp during the third inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Pirates' Gaby Sanchez is hit by a pitch during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates' Gaby Sanchez is hit by a pitch during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates catcher Russell Martin flashes the 'Zoltan' sign to the dugout after driving in two run with a double during the first inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates catcher Russell Martin flashes the 'Zoltan' sign to the dugout after driving in two run with a double during the first inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Phillies center fielder Ben Revere can't catch a triple by the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen during the eighth inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Phillies center fielder Ben Revere can't catch a triple by the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen during the eighth inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett delivers to the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen during the third inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett delivers to the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen during the third inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen smiles as he slides into third base with an RBI triple during the eighth inning against the Phillies on Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen smiles as he slides into third base with an RBI triple during the eighth inning against the Phillies on Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Fans wave brooms to celebrate the Pirates' first series sweep of the season after defeating the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Fans wave brooms to celebrate the Pirates' first series sweep of the season after defeating the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates reliever Jared Hughes celebrates with catcher Russell Martin after defeating the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates reliever Jared Hughes celebrates with catcher Russell Martin after defeating the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen takes a high inside pitch next to Phillies catcher Koyie Hill during the eighth inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen takes a high inside pitch next to Phillies catcher Koyie Hill during the eighth inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates catcher Russell Martin drives in two runs witha double during the first inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates catcher Russell Martin drives in two runs witha double during the first inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen watches his RBI triple during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen watches his RBI triple during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen slides into third base past the Phillies' Cody Asche with an RBI triple during the eighth inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen slides into third base past the Phillies' Cody Asche with an RBI triple during the eighth inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Pirates' Josh Harrison doubles during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates' Josh Harrison doubles during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates catcher Russell Martin scores past Phillies catcher Koyie Hill during the eighth inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates catcher Russell Martin scores past Phillies catcher Koyie Hill during the eighth inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett tips his cap to the crowd as he takes the mound in the first inning against the Pirates Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett tips his cap to the crowd as he takes the mound in the first inning against the Pirates Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates left fielder Starling Marte drives in a run with a single during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates left fielder Starling Marte drives in a run with a single during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Pirates' Gaby Sanchez is hit by a pitch during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates' Gaby Sanchez is hit by a pitch during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke delivers to the plate during the first inning against the Phillies on Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke delivers to the plate during the first inning against the Phillies on Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen greets Neil Walker at home plate after they scored on a double by Russell Martin during the first inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen greets Neil Walker at home plate after they scored on a double by Russell Martin during the first inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett delivers to the plate during the first inning against the Pirates Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett delivers to the plate during the first inning against the Pirates Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen hits an RBI triple during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen hits an RBI triple during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen celebrates with Neil Walker after defeating the Phillies for their first series sweep Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen celebrates with Neil Walker after defeating the Phillies for their first series sweep Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Pirates' Josh Harrison doubles during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates' Josh Harrison doubles during the eighth inning against the Phillies Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett delivers to the Pirates' Josh Harrison during the third inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett delivers to the Pirates' Josh Harrison during the third inning Sunday, July 6, 2014, at PNC Park.
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