MIAMI -- When hitting the ball hard didn't do the trick, the Pirates resorted to going soft.
Starling Marte bunted for a base hit in the sixth inning Friday night with the Pirates desperate for base runners. At the time, the bunt down the third-base line represented 50 percent of the Pirates' offense.
It was that kind of night for the Pirates, who again struggled to hit in a 2-0 loss against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.
Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez and four relievers shut down the Pirates. Alvarez (1-1) pitched six scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a walk and striking out five.
"They got that young man in a big trade," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's well-touted. He showed up good tonight."
Alvarez made his fifth start since returning from the 60-day disabled list, where he spent the first three months of the season because of right shoulder inflammation. He relied mostly on fastballs, mixing two-seamers and four-seamers, and hit 98 mph when he struck out Gaby Sanchez to end the second.
Alvarez had a 3.28 ERA in his four previous starts. He pitched seven scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers in his previous outing.
Jordy Mercer extended his hitting streak to 11 games when he singled in the third, the first Pirates hit of the night. After that, the Pirates didn't get another until Marte bunted for a single with two outs in the sixth. Alvarez retired 10 Pirates in a row between the hits.
Marte stole second, giving the Pirates a man in scoring position for the first time since the second inning, but Neil Walker grounded out.
"We had a couple shots," Hurdle said.
"We watched lot of tape on the young man. What we saw tonight was better than anything we saw on tape."
Consecutive ninth-inning singles from Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez put men on the corners with two outs, but Jose Tabata grounded out to end the game. Steve Cishek earned his 21st save.
Jeff Locke set a career high with nine strikeouts, but he also walked six. He allowed two runs on eight hits in 62/3 innings while working around base-runners much of the time. But Locke limited the damage as the Marlins stranded 10.
"Knowing that you got guys behind you who can pick the ball up for you," Locke said of the key to working out of jams.
Two walks and two singles gave the Marlins a run in the sixth. A mistake fastball to Giancarlo Stanton that resulted in a home run accounted for the other.
Locke and the Pirates did not want Stanton, the best hitter in the Marlins' lineup, to beat them. In his first three at-bats, Stanton walked, singled and walked again. In the seventh, Locke fell behind and left a fastball over the plate. Stanton hit it off the Clevelander sign in left field for his 12th home run.
"I felt about the way it looked," Locke said. "Kind of all over the place."
Locke (9-3) faced a Marlins offense that ranked last in baseball in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs. Only the Brewers have walked less than the Marlins. Despite their offensive problems, the Marlins recently won three out of four games against the Colorado Rockies on the road.
Jeff Mathis walked in the second. Henderson Alvarez then lined a double over Marte's head in left-center field. Marte's strong throw to Walker started a perfect relay to the plate. Russell Martin had plenty of time to tag Mathis, the slow-moving catcher, at home to end the inning.
Martin tweaked his left knee on the play. Michael McKenry replaced him in the seventh as part of a double switch.
"I don't have a severe injury that's going to put me on the disabled list or anything," Martin said. "The doctor checked it out. He said it's nothing extravagant. Just a little tweak.
"I'm not going to feel as good as I felt yesterday. I've actually had something like this before and I've played with it in the past.
"It's a little uncomfortable, but it doesn't keep me from doing anything physical."
McKenry likely will start tonight, Martin said, but Martin plans to play Sunday.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published July 27, 2013 2:00 AM