Pittsburgh Pirates starter Jeff Locke was on a fairytale ride with his amazing season, but after the All-Star Break things have gone south for the young lefty.
On Saturday, the 25-year-old lasted 2 2/3 innings and surrendered eight runs on 10 hits and three walks. That was by far his worst outing of the season.
Locke was brilliant for the Pirates during the first half of the season. He went from barely making the team to being an All-Star in three months. Lockes’s first half ERA was 2.06 with a 1.13 WHIP.
He has slowly regressed the second half. Locke has an ERA of 4.78 and a 2.02 WHIP. That is a drastic jump.
The Diamondbacks jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after Locke walked two of the first four batters he faced and Wil Nieves hit an RBI double down the right field line. He stranded the next two runners, got through the second inning and got two quick outs in the third before everthing went downhill.
Three line-drive singles. Two-RBI ground-ball single. Line-drive single. Three-run Martin Prado home run. Ground-ball single. Then in one glimpse of a moment the Pirates trailed 8-0 and Locke was out of the game.
“My eyes were opened up the other day in Colorado when Liriano didn’t throw the way he expected to throw,” Locke said. “The game sped up a little bit. I was all over the zone, then you throw a pitch over the plate, it’s a hit. Another hit.”
Pittsburgh is now faced with the decision of how to fix Locke. They could skip a start in the upcoming weeks due to a couple off days.
With the call-up of Nick Johnson from Triple-A Indianapolis, the Pirates could spot start the lefty for Locke. Johnson was brilliant in the six innings of relief he pitched on Sunday against the Diamondbacks. Despite suffering the loss, Johnson turned some heads in his major league debut.
Locke, like Gerrit Cole, could benefit from rest. Manager Clint Hurdle said he would talk with Locke and GM Neal Huntington to decide if they will skip one of Locke’s starts or give him more days between starts.
“Absolutely not. If that’s the route that they take, then that’s their decision to make,” Locke said. “But that’s nothing that I’m looking for or want. I want to keep everything as normal as possible, keep throwing on the same amount of rest, keep doing the same thing I do every week. My arm’s really been the least of my worries.”