Jeff Locke earned his first career win, pitching six strong innings as the Pirates defeated the Braves, 2-1, tonight at PNC Park.
Locke allowed one earned run on two hits, striking out six and walking five to improve his record this season to 1-3. He will compete for a spot in the Pirates' rotation next season, but faces an uphill battle after struggling in most of his 10 career starts. His outing tonight was his best career start.
Though he pitched well, he was not always efficient. He was pulled after six innings having thrown 104 pitches, 44 of them balls.
Former Pirate Paul Maholm took the loss, allowing two earned runs on seven hits in five innings. It was his third start against his former team and first since the Braves (93-67) acquired him from the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline.
Starling Marte scored all of the runs for the Pirates (78-82). He smacked his fifth career home run in the fifth inning as the Pirates grabbed a 2-1 lead.
The leadoff hitter, Marte hit a 2-1 slider from Maholm over the green wall in centerfield. It was Marte's first home run since Aug. 8 and the first Maholm has allowed since Sept. 12.
Marte sparked the offense in the third inning and helped the Pirates pull even from an early deficit. He started the inning with a ground ball down the left-field line. Reed Johnson misplayed the ball in the corner, allowing Marte to advance to third on a leadoff triple. Chase d'Arnaud grounded out to shortstop, but got the ball deep enough in the infield to allow Marte to score to make it 1-1.
The Pirates could have added more in the inning. After Andrew McCutchen hit a one-out double that one-hopped the fence, he tried stealing third as Gaby Sanchez faced a full count at the plate. But Sanchez hit a screaming line drive right at Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who tagged McCutchen for an inning-ending double play.
Jared Hughes earned his second career save, pitching a hitless ninth inning.
Locke allowed his first hit with two outs in the third inning, and it came back to haunt him. After Michael Bourn singled on a grounder up the middle of the infield, Locke walked Martin Prado on five pitches to put runners on first and second. He battled to a full count with Jason Heyward, who also cracked a single up the middle of the infield, scoring Bourn from second and giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.
Locke got into trouble in the second inning, walking Freddie Freeman and Reed Johnson with one out. But Brian McCann hit a grounder toward first base, and Gaby Sanchez turned a 3-6-1 double play to end the inning and keep the game scoreless.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino.