The San Diego Padres did it again Tuesday night, beating the Pirates, 5-2, at PNC Park after a shaky start by left-hander Jeff Locke and a quiet finish at the plate.
The Pirates stranded seven runners, managed just a pair of runs in the third on a single by Marlon Byrd that dropped into right field, and had two batters reached base in the final four innings -- neither on hits.
"Those guys are up there trying to make things happen, we just couldn't get it done tonight on offense," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
"Spin, command, they kept the ball down. We didn't get a ball out of the infield after the third inning. Their infielders were ready, they were making plays, and not a lot of pitches elevated for us to get on the backside of and ride or drive."
The Pirates lost some critical ground in the tight National League wild-card race with the loss as the surging Washington Nationals won both ends of their doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves, and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Houston Astros, 10-0.
Locke allowed four earned runs and seven hit. He also walked three before being relieved to open the sixth.
He had an efficient first, getting behind the count on one batter -- Jedd Gyorko, who lined a 3-1 fastball to right field for a single.
But Gyorko -- who grew up in Morgantown, W.Va. -- gave San Diego the lead in the third when he turned on an inside fastball and homered with two men on to make it 3-0. Locke opened the inning by allowing consecutive singles.
"To me, what stands out is the three run homer. It takes a little wind out of the sails early," said Locke. "I saw it go over the fence, and that was about it. He's got that kind of bat path where it looks a little lifted there and then ran into the barrel."
Hurdle said he would assess that as a solid inside pitch, but added that Locke struggled to find his fastball command inside -- a staple of his quality starts.
"The hardest ball hit on him, the three-run homer, was actually a pretty good pitch inside," said Hurdle. "The guy just got to it. Gyorko got to it. And then the damage control he did in the fourth kept us in the ballgame. He just wasn't as sharp as his last time out."
Gyorko went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and former Pirate Ronny Cedeno went 3 for 4 for the Padres.
Andrew McCutchen went 2 for 3 with a walk, and Gaby Sanchez went 2 for 2 for the Pirates, but Russell Martin and Pedro Alvarez went 0 for 4 in the No. 6 and No. 7 spots, and Byrd struck out twice while batting fourth --once with two men on.
Locke singled and McCutchen doubled to left, in the bottom of the third before Byrd's two-run single. He hit a looper to right-center and Kyle Blanks appeared to trip and fall. An error eventually was charged to center fielder Will Venable on the play.
The inning ended when Byrd was thrown out at home on Sanchez's infield single.
San Diego scored again in the fourth after Locke loaded the bases to open the inning. The Padres added a run in the seventh on three consecutive singles against reliever Bryan Morris.
Padres starter Eric Stults went five innings, gave up two earned runs, seven hits and struck out five.
His fastball was in the high 80s, his changeup and slider in the high 70s, and he mixed in a curveball that dipped down into the 60s.
"It's a wide variety to go from 60-something to mid- to upper-80s," said Josh Harrison, who started at second base.
"We knew he threw on the rush, too. I think Pedro [saw that] right before me. We know he has it in there, but it's one of those things you can be effective with it when used at the right time."
The Padres bullpen allowed two batters to reach base in the final four innings. Starling Marte, back in the starting lineup after a lengthy absence because of a hand injury, was hit by a pitch and Neil Walker walked before Andrew Lambo grounded out to second to end the game.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez. First Published September 18, 2013 2:15 AM