PHILADELPHIA – Jeff Locke finally put it all together while the Phillies offense continued its season-long search for answers.
Locke pitched six strong innings of two-hit ball and Gaby Sanchez homered off Cole Hamels to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates over Philadelphia 2-0 on Tuesday night.
“That’s his best big league performance,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Locke, who was making his 14th career start. “That was six innings of big league pitching. He made pitches; he flat-out made pitches.”
Locke (2-1) struck out six and walked two. After wriggling out of a jam in the fourth, he retired his last eight batters — striking out three of the final four.
“It all just clicked today,” Locke said. “The big thing is I was able to get ahead, something I’ve stressed the last few starts. It’s great to compete and get through it and know that you can do it.”
Sanchez also doubled and Brandon Inge had an RBI double in his Pirates debut to help Pittsburgh win for the fifth time in seven games.
“It was good for everybody and good for him,” Hurdle said of Inge.
After opening the season with a pair of poor outings, Hamels (0-3) pitched well for the third straight start but was hurt by a lack of run support again. In eight innings, the left-hander gave up two runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and one walk.
“Just being able to really get in a groove and go deep in the ballgame was something I was pleased with,” Hamels said. “My pitches felt really good and I had a clean feel of making my pitches. I was pretty happy, but obviously with the results I want the team to win.”
Philadelphia, which has scored three runs or fewer in 13 of 21 games, managed just four hits and had 11 strikeouts against Locke and three relievers.
“I think they’re trying, maybe a little bit too hard,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of his hitters. “But you have to get it done. (Locke) was aggressive with us, kind of challenged us. He came right at us, really. I thought we were going to hit some fastballs, if you want to know the truth, but we didn’t.”
“We have to improve our game,” Manuel added. “We have to hit some of those fastballs, yes.”
Michael Young extended his hitting streak to 14 games with an eighth-inning single for the Phillies, who were shut out for the third time this season.
Jason Grilli pitched the ninth for his eighth save in eight chances. Grilli hasn’t given up a run and has allowed just three hits with 15 strikeouts in nine innings this season.
Philadelphia appeared poised to score against Locke when John Mayberry Jr. led off the fourth with a triple and Locke hit Domonic Brown with a pitch to put runners on first and third with none out.
But Mayberry, running on contact, was tagged out trying to score on Ben Revere’s weakly hit grounder to third and Erik Kratz hit into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play to keep Philadelphia scoreless.
It’s been a theme for much of the season for the Phillies. Manuel has tinkered with the lineup and remains hopeful that this core of mostly proven hitters will turn things around.
“I try to think of things all the time to change, but I don’t see where I can change very much,” he said. “We just have to come out here and keep working and keep at it and hope we improve and do better.”
Locke didn’t allow another batter to reach base before turning the game over to Pittsburgh’s stingy bullpen, which entered third in the majors with a 1.94 ERA. The Pirates improved to 10-0 when leading after the seventh inning.
“I just wanted to go out there to compete and have fun,” Locke said. “It was definitely my best outing and certainly the most efficient.
“I have confidence in the guys and they have confidence in me and that’s a great feeling to have.”
Pittsburgh C Russell Martin extended his hitting streak to eight games with an eighth-inning single. ... Left fielder Starling Marte’s second-inning error on Revere’s liner snapped an errorless streak of 41 1-3 innings for the Pirates. ... Phillies second baseman Chase Utley didn’t start, but struck out while pinch-hitting in the eighth. He remained in the game in the ninth. ... Philadelphia RHP Roy Halladay (2-2, 6.04 ERA) is scheduled to face Pirates lefty Wandy Rodriguez (2-0, 0.56) tonight in the third game of the four-game series.