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Locke dazzles with eight scoreless innings

Lefty faces one over minimum, retires last 19 in stellar outing

PITTSBURGH -- Driven to not be the lemon in the Pirates' rotation garage, Jeff Locke on Saturday instead became their sleek roadster.

"Everyone in the rotation has done it most of the season, and you never want to feel like you're the weak link," Locke said after eight innings of brilliance in the Bucs' 1-0 win over the Indians on a PNC Park Independence Day afternoon. "You want to put forth the best effort."

That Locke did, speaking for all of that rotation. No one else has gone eight innings while giving up two hits and no walks, as did Locke while facing only 25 men, one over the minimum, and retiring the last 19 of them.

Locke has been a hybrid in that garage. Either excellent or exasperating, nothing in-between. The man who can make fans shake their heads in dismay had two managers shaking their heads in awe.

"Oh man, he really pitched a good game," said Cleveland's Terry Francona.

Clint Hurdle was even more succinct.

"Wow. Fantastic," the Bucs' skipper said. "Fun to watch, man. He followed [catcher Francisco Cervelli's] glove all day long. The overall command of three pitches, pitch efficiency -- two three-ball counts."

Indeed, only two three-ball counts -- to batter No. 15, Giovanny Urshela, in the fifth, and to batter No. 20, Francisco Lindor, in the seventh -- for the lefty who had 80 three-ball counts in his previous 15 starts.

Locke simply found his groove early, and stayed in it, not shying away from a Tribe of hot Indians who had scored 31 runs in their previous five games, all wins.

"As the game progresses and you're feeling good and getting outs, there's added confidence; you almost feel superior until someone on the other side tries to knock you out of it," Locke said. "When you get in a good rhythm, you want to do anything you can to stay there."

Cody Anderson helped with that. The Indians' rookie righty matched Locke's efficiency (in his own eight frames, he had to make only three more pitches), enabling him to "go back out to the mound and get back to work," Locke said.

"You do want to get all the run support you can, but the quick innings do allow you to get back to attacking the guys. Especially after we scored that one run [in the sixth], you just want to keep going until someone takes the ball from you."

Video: [email protected]: Walker opens the scoring with a single

After Locke's outstanding performance, Gerrit Cole is the next Pirates starter.

"And he wants to go out and pitch a complete game. I know he does," Locke said. "When it's your turn, you want to do better than the last guy. That's the way everyone is wired, we feed off each other. I know the better I pitch, the better this team plays. It's a pleasure to be a part of it."

As Chicago might serenade, "Saturday … in the [PNC] Park … I think it was the Fourth of July," the pleasure was all of Pittsburgh's.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast.
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