PITTSBURGH (AP) – A lack of efficiency with his pitches was the reason Jeff Locke failed to get past the fifth inning in his previous two starts despite giving up a combined three runs.
That wasn’t a problem Saturday for the Pirates’ left-hander, who retired his last 19 batters.
Locke needed only 89 pitches to throw eight innings of two-hit ball, and Neil Walker had an RBI single in Pittsburgh’s 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
“We’ve seen it in stretches before, the volume of work today,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Even the counts he got behind, he came right back.
“I really believe that every time he gets the ball, he expects to win and go deep. That’s one of the things that I’ve always appreciated about him, that I’ve always believed about him, and you’ve seen him continue to fight,” he added.
Locke (5-4) allowed only second-inning singles by Yan Gomes and Giovanny Urshela as the Pirates ended Cleveland’s five-game winning streak. Locke struck six, walked none and faced one batter more than the minimum in a game that took just 2 hours, 6 minutes.
Locke said he had his best rhythm of the year.
“It’s almost like an added confidence,” he said. “You almost feel superior until someone on the offense, on their side, tries to knock you out of it. Fortunately enough, they did hit some balls hard and guys were there.”
Pittsburgh scored in the sixth against tough-luck loser Cody Anderson (1-1). Josh Harrison hit a leadoff double off the top of the center-field fence and came around on Walker’s single.
“Their guy did a good job of pounding the strike zone today and we weren’t able to take advantage that much,” Walker said. “Fortunately one run was enough and Jeff had his best outing of the year.”
With two on in the ninth, Mark Melancon got Michael Brantley on a game-ending grounder for his 26th save. Jason Kipnis walked with two outs and Francisco Lindor had an infield single.
Cleveland never got a runner past first base against Locke. Pittsburgh turned double plays in each of the first two innings and went on to win for the 10th time in 15 games.
Locke, who hit Kipnis with a pitch in the first, has given up two earned runs or less in each of his last five starts.
Harrison had two of the Pirates’ six hits.
Anderson pitched eight innings in his third major league start, and his ERA rose slightly to 0.76 from 0.57. He had no walks and four strikeouts in a complete game.
“I’m just going out focusing on what I have to do to help our team win,” Anderson said. “I’m just trying to do the best I can and then use tomorrow to get better.”
Indians: Urshela extended his hitting streak to 13 games. … Kipnis has reached base in 27 of his last 29 games.
Pirates: Walker’s RBI single ran his hitting streak to seven games.
Indians: OF Ryan Raburn usually starts against left-handers but did not play because of illness. … RHP Josh Tomlin, who underwent right shoulder surgery in April, is likely to begin a minor league rehab assignment next week. … 1B-OF Nick Swisher (left knee inflammation) hopes to go on a rehab assignment soon after the All-Star break.
Major league wins leader Gerrit Cole (11-3, 2.20 ERA) starts for the Pirates on Sunday against RHP Danny Salazar (7-3, 3.80) in the series finale. Cole is 6-1 with a 2.01 ERA in his last eight starts. Salazar took a perfect game into the sixth inning Tuesday when he won at Tampa Bay.
(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)