Facing the slumping San Francisco Giants may be just what he needs to get back on track.
Locke hopes to end a season-worst five-start winless drought and help the visiting Pirates maintain their slim lead in the NL Central on Thursday night in the opener of this four-game series.
The Pirates (74-52) received another strong performance on the mound, but couldn't generate enough offense with only four hits in Wednesday's 2-1 loss in San Diego. The defeat cut their division lead to one game over St. Louis, which beat Milwaukee.
Pittsburgh's starters have a 1.67 ERA in four games since allowing a season-high run total in a 15-5 loss to Arizona on Saturday.
Locke (9-4, 2.90 ERA) had the worst start of his career in that contest, allowing eight runs and 10 hits over 2 2-3 innings.
"Any start like that is a reality check," Locke said following the shortest of his 36 career starts. "You set your standards high, you set your goals high and you're disappointed when you don't reach them."
Locke missed his final turn in the rotation before the All-Star break because of stiffness in his lower back, but has downplayed the idea that he may still be feeling the effects of the injury.
The All-Star, however, hasn't won since July 21 - his first outing following the break. He's 0-2 with a 6.57 ERA with 17 walks in 24 2-3 innings over his last five starts.
While he's 4-2 with a 4.15 ERA in 12 home starts, Locke has pitched much better with a 5-2 record and 1.81 ERA in 12 on the road.
He may be able to continue that success against a San Francisco team that has totaled nine runs and gone 1 for 26 with runners in scoring position while dropping three of four. The Giants (56-70) fell into last place in the NL West following a 12-1 loss to Boston and the Padres' win over the Pirates on Wednesday."We're having a hard time with the bats here," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's got to get better with the pitching side and the hitting side."
Joaquin Arias was a bright spot in the loss with two hits, including his first home run of the season. Arias went 7 for 14 as San Francisco dropped two of three in Pittsburgh from June 11-13.
Resurgent Matt Cain (8-8, 4.35) takes the mound looking to pitch at least seven innings for a sixth straight start.
Since giving up 11 runs over three innings in consecutive July starts, Cain has gone 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA while limiting opponents to a .193 batting average in his last six.
He's been very successful against the Pirates, going 3-0 with a 1.24 ERA in his last six meetings. He hasn't allowed a run in 15 2-3 innings against them after giving up two hits over 6 2-3 in a 10-0 win at Pittsburgh on June 13.
Andrew McCutchen is batting .441 during an eight-game hitting streak against the Giants and .444 over his last 18 games overall, but is 2 for 16 when facing Cain.
The Giants have won 10 of 14 home meetings against the Pirates.
|August 19, 2013||Starling Marte||Day-to-Day||Right hand contusion|
|August 11, 2013||Starling Marte||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hand|
|July 28, 2013||Travis Snider||15-Day DL||Left big toe discomfort|
|July 28, 2013||Michael McKenry||60-Day DL||Left knee surgery - out for season|
|July 23, 2013||Jason Grilli||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm|
|July 07, 2013||Neil Walker||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|San Francisco Giants|
|August 20, 2013||Pablo Sandoval||Day-to-Day||Sore back|
|August 17, 2013||Chad Gaudin||15-Day DL||Carpal tunnel syndrome|
|August 15, 2013||Sandy Rosario||Day-to-Day||Bruised sternum|
|July 31, 2013||Pablo Sandoval||Day-to-Day||Bruised right heel|
|July 30, 2013||Buster Posey||Day-to-Day||Ill|
|July 29, 2013||Tony Abreu||15-Day DL||Left knee bursitis|
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Clint Hurdle is never sure how the Pittsburgh Pirates will win.
On a night breakthrough pitcher Jeff Locke struggled with his command, the offense delivered all through the lineup.
Garrett Jones and Jordy Mercer homered, Jose Tabata hit a three-run double, and the NL Central-leading Pirates beat the San Francisco Giants 10-5 on Thursday night.
Pedro Alvarez hit a go-ahead, two-run double to start a seven-run fifth and matched his career high for RBIs in a season with 85. Russell Martin and Gaby Sanchez added sacrifice flies and Tabata doubled in his second plate appearance of the inning.
"You can't write this stuff up. It's a great game, it's a crazy game, it makes you laugh, it makes you cry," Hurdle said. "This team, we believe in us and whatever it's going to take. We don't always know how it's going to happen but we're going to keep playing and covering each other's back and keep having fun along with it. Sometimes that's a little bit more of a challenge than other times."
Marco Scutaro had a tying two-run single in the fourth for San Francisco after scoring in the third on Buster Posey 's sacrifice fly.
Giants right-hander Matt Cain departed after getting hit on his pitching arm on a line drive by Sanchez. X-rays on Cain's bruised forearm were negative.
Jones' 12th homer leading off the second was a splash-hit drive into McCovey Cove beyond the right-field wall. It was the 28th at AT&T Park by an opponent and second by a Pirates player. Adam LaRoche hit one on Aug. 11, 2007, against Tim Lincecum .
"It's definitely a step forward in the right direction," said Jones, batting .239. "I felt better up there timing wise. I just need to do it consistently."
Cain was hit when Sanchez led off the fourth with a groundout. Trainer Dave Groeschner and manager Bruce Bochy hustled out to check on the pitcher, who walked off the mound on his own moments later.
Manager Bruce Bochy expected to know more about Cain's condition Friday.
"That ball was smoked. It caught him flush. He has a pretty good contusion. He's really sore. We'll know more tomorrow. We're not going to take any chances."
Cain allowed three runs and seven hits in 3 1-3 innings. Guillermo Moscoso (1-2) relieved with the Giants trailing 3-1.
Cain, who had been on a nice roll since the All-Star break, threw 64 pitches, 40 for strikes.
"It caught me pretty good. It didn't feel right, right off the bat," he said. "Like the time in 2009, I had the feeling it wasn't very good."
Tabata added a pair of singles for his third three-hit game in August.
Jeanmar Gomez (3-0) pitched three scoreless innings of relief for the win following Jeff Locke , who allowed three runs, five hits and four walks in four innings.
On a day the Giants lost outfielder Andres Torres perhaps for the season to a strained left Achilles tendon, the defending World Series champs were dealt another blow with the early exit for Cain. San Francisco was outscored 21-4 in a losing three-game series against the Red Sox - including 12-1 in Wednesday's finale.
It wasn't much better in the opener of a four-game series with the Pirates. Brandon Crawford added a two-run double in the eighth for San Francisco.
"It's definitely not what we had planned with Pittsburgh coming in," Cain said.
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval returned to the Giants' lineup after missing two games with a sore back. He grounded into a double play in the second and wound up 1 for 3 with a walk.
NOTES: Pirates GM Neal Huntington said LHP Wandy Rodriguez (forearm tightness) felt pain during his simulated game and will be examined by Dr. James Andrews early next week. ... Bochy said struggling LHP Barry Zito (4-9, 5.63 ERA) is scheduled to make his next start. "We're keeping the guys in the rotation where they're at," Bochy said. ... Pirates RH closer Jason Grilli , nursing a strained tendon in his throwing arm, threw a 25-pitch bullpen and is scheduled for another side session Sunday before a likely rehab outing. "Another good day for Jason," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We'll see how he bounces back tomorrow." ... Hurdle believes OF Starling Marte is close to returning and won't need a DL stint. He missed his fourth straight game because of a bruise on his right hand after getting stepped on during a headfirst slide against Arizona on Sunday. "I think Marte is right on the edge of coming back," Hurdle said. "He's closing in on that - return to play." ... The Giants are 9-22 vs. the NL Central.