After two impressive starts that were more reminiscent of his All-Star first half, Jeff Locke struggled Tuesday night in an outing that was more indicative of the second half of his season.
But the young left-handed starter said his approach has remained consistent. The execution and the effectiveness have waned.
Tuesday, it was his fastball that was unreliable in a 5-3 loss against the San Diego Padres in which Locke allowed four earned runs on seven hits in five innings. His pitch count grew rapidly as he struggled to pitch ahead of batters and, later, put them away.
He said he threw his changeup a lot more frequently, especially in fastball counts.
"I was just trying to find anything to work into my favor," Locke said.
He turned to his changeup only after he struggled to find consistency with his fastball.
"It's not that you lose confidence in the pitch, but, when you're throwing it and throwing it and throwing it and you're just not getting swings, or one in three is on the plate, sometimes you feel you need to go to something else," he said.
Locke said he felt a little "tardy" with his fastball, and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said inconsistency of his delivery was something the coaching staff noticed.
"Jeff's been an honest self-evaluator from the day he walked in the building here," Hurdle said. "That's one thing that's been so refreshing about him. He'll tell you 'I felt good. I pitched bad. I felt bad, but I pitched good.' He lays it all out there."
Burnett takes some heat
Pirates starter A.J. Burnett generated a lot of feedback from a tweet he sent Tuesday night after an announced crowd of 22,250 at PNC Park earlier that night.
"Lots of empty seats," Burnett tweeted. "Lots!"
That generated 102 retweets by Wednesday evening and even more responses, most criticizing the Pirates starter.
Wednesday, Burnett clarified his remarks, saying he didn't mean to imply the team's loss had anything to do with the less-than-full house.
"Nobody's pointing no fingers," Burnett said. "The last thing that needs to be said by anybody -- radio guys, news guys, me, anybody -- nobody's pointing fingers at fans. We're on the field. We're competing. We didn't play a couple good games."
Burnett followed that tweet Tuesday night with one that praised Pirates fans.
"I just know how important it is to this city and to this team," he said Wednesday. "I made an observation. It was just my opinion, and I love the responses whether they're good or bad. It shows that people care."
The Pirates have posted a PNC Park-record 20 sellouts this season and are on pace to finish the year with their second-highest season attendance in team history.
Padres 'own' PNC Park
The Pirates never have won a series against the Padres at PNC Park. And that trend will continue.
The Pirates are 10-31 all time against San Diego in the 13-year-old ballpark. It is the worst winning percentage against any team the Pirates have played at least 10 times.
Petco Park, like PNC Park, is spacious, but that likely plays little into the Padres' success here.
"It's gotta be coincidence, right?" reliever Jared Hughes said.
"If anything, we're due for a win. Or a couple. Or, like, 20."
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. Jenn Menendez contributed to this report.