MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun's reaction in the third inning Saturday afternoon summarized Jeff Locke's impact on the game.
Braun went down looking at three fastballs to end the third inning. He flipped his bat toward the Milwaukee Brewers' dugout, spun his helmet in the same direction and prepared to take the field, another batter unable to solve Locke.
With Locke's scoreless outings and four home runs, two from Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates beat the Brewers, 5-2, at Miller Park Saturday and won for the eighth time in the past 10 games. Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker all homered against spot starter Mike Fiers, who took Kyle Lohse's spot in the rotation.
Saturday, Locke shut out a powerful and predominantly right-handed Brewers lineup in a hitter friendly ballpark, allowing three hits and three walks and striking out seven. Locke threw a season-high 100 pitches. He has not allowed a run in his past 14 innings, dating back to the fifth inning of his start May 14 against the Brewers at PNC Park.
Locke returned to Miller Park for the first time since his fourth major league start and his final outing in 2011. He allowed five runs and three home runs in four innings that day.
Chris Leroux, Daniel Moskos, Brian Burres and Daniel McCutchen also pitched in that game, which gave Locke a final ERA of 6.48. Locke has caught up to the major leagues as time has passed since that start.
In Locke's three most recent starts, he had held opponents to a .203 batting average against and had a 1.89 ERA. He had allowed four earned runs in 19 innings and lowered his season ERA to 2.73.
"Fastball command has been the biggest plus for him," manager Clint Hurdle said before the game. "Early, he was using his fastball both sides of the plate, trying to get it in, wasn't getting strikes. Now he's getting strikes so he's keeping people off the plate. The command of the changeup, the breaking ball, his secondary pitches, is very, very good."
Despite pitching his home games in PNC Park, which is friendly to left-handed pitchers, Locke had a 1.80 road ERA, more than two runs lower than his home mark.
Andrew McCutchen entered the game with five hits, three of them home runs, in nine career at-bats against Fiers. With two outs in the first inning, Fiers fell behind him, 1-0. His next pitch was a fastball up in the zone on the inner half of the plate.
Andrew McCutchen crushed a line drive to left field that cleared the wall, his third home run against Fiers in as many at-bats and seventh of the season. Fiers crouched, head down, with his hands on his knees as he rounded the bases.
After Walker singled in the second, Fiers fell behind Alvarez. He again left a fastball up and could not work it far enough inside, and Alvarez turned on it for his ninth home run of the season. The Pirates led, 3-0.
Fiers fell behind Walker with one out in the fourth and left a fastball over the plate. Walker hit it in the second deck in right field for his second home run of the year and the Pirates led 4-0.
Alvarez hit his 10th of the season in the ninth inning off Alfredo Figaro. Figaro's first-pitch changeup ended up in second deck in right field.
Carlos Gomez hit two home runs for the Brewers, one off Justin Wilson and one against Tony Watson.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published May 25, 2013 11:15 PM