Bartolo Colon was a tough opponent Monday night at PNC Park.
Colon, 40, continued to throw legitimate heat on his 108th and final pitch of the game, and his command gave the Pirates no room for error. As a result, the Pirates wasted another good start from Jeff Locke and lost their third in a row, 2-1 to the Oakland Athletics at PNC Park. The Pirates have lost five of their past seven games.
Colon (12-3) allowed one run and one walk in seven innings. He held the Pirates to 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and, with the help of Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour, forced the Pirates to strand 10 runners on base. Balfour earned his 23rd save.
"He really beats up the strike zone," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Colon before the game. "He throws as many strikes as any pitcher that we've seen all year or will see all year. He pitches to his strengths. He can pitch tight, he can stay away, he can elevate when he wants to. Most of it's done in the strike zone."
True to the scouting report, Colon threw 78 of his 108 pitches for strikes. He mixed a two-seam and four-seam fastball with the occasional slider.
"There's specific areas that he's able to go to and stay there," Hurdle said. "Not that he throws it in a teacup, but there's times where he throws it in a teacup. He can stay in a spot. Until you hit him out of that spot, he can stay in that spot."
Colon entered his start Monday having pitched at least seven innings in each of his past four outings. He had won eight consecutive starts until his previous start, when he allowed two runs in seven innings but lost.
Jose Tabata drove in the Pirates' only run in the seventh. Clint Barmes hit a one-out double. Travis Snider, pinch-hitting for Locke, singled, sending Barmes to third. Starling Marte struck out, but Tabata hit a dribbler down the third-base line. Josh Donaldson could not make a play and Barmes scored, cutting Oakland's lead to 2-1.
Andrew McCutchen then hit a hard liner to center, but Coco Crisp made a diving catch to end the inning and keep the Pirates from tying the score.
Barmes, Tabata and Pedro Alvarez each had two hits.
Locke didn't find himself in real trouble until the seventh. Jed Lowrie and Donaldson led off with consecutive singles. A fielder's choice and fly ball put runners on first and third with two outs, and Locke walked Chris Young to load the bases. Locke then walked Derek Norris to force home a run, and the Athletics led, 2-0.
"It's going to stick out in my mind, walking Norris," Locke said. "That's something that I would do 10 times in a row. I'd still throw the same pitch again. I was a little off on that spot a little bit, which is going to happen from time to time, but I'd still go back to that same pitch again."
Locke (8-2) allowed two runs in seven innings after facing the minimum through three. He has pitched seven innings in four of his past five starts.
"It's everything I'm trying to do, everything I've been doing," Locke said. "I'm just getting better at it. I think earlier in the year when you start to have some success you start to almost, not surprise yourself a little bit, but show yourself you can do it up here. In games like [Monday night], where you only give up two runs, you're not happy with it because you could have done something better."
The Athletics had only three hits in the game.
"That's probably one of the better right-handed hitting lineups set up for a left-handed pitcher that he's seen this season," Hurdle said. "I thought he kept them in check."
The first hit Locke allowed gave the Athletics a lead. Lowrie doubled with one out in the fourth. He moved to third on a wild pitch; Russell Martin recovered the ball and threw to third, but the throw was early enough that Alvarez swiped the dirt in front of the bag before Lowrie got there. Lowrie scored on Donaldson's sacrifice fly.mobilehome - breaking - pirates
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published July 9, 2013 12:30 AM