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Locke a pleasant surprise in Marlins debut

Lefty limits D-backs to one run in 5 2/3 innings, laments final pitch
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- As smooth and easy as Jeff Locke was cruising along through five innings in the Marlins' 3-2 loss to the D-backs on Thursday night, the left-hander wishes he could redo the sixth inning.

A two-out single by Nick Ahmed put runners on first and second, and with the dangerous Paul Goldschmidt coming to the plate, Miami manager Don Mattingly went to his bullpen.

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MIAMI -- As smooth and easy as Jeff Locke was cruising along through five innings in the Marlins' 3-2 loss to the D-backs on Thursday night, the left-hander wishes he could redo the sixth inning.

A two-out single by Nick Ahmed put runners on first and second, and with the dangerous Paul Goldschmidt coming to the plate, Miami manager Don Mattingly went to his bullpen.

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"For me, he pitches too good to get the loss right there," Mattingly said. "It's also Goldy up there and giving him another shot at him. I know the pitch count was OK. Also, it's his first outing, and there's a different energy than the Minor Leagues."

The decision semi-worked for Miami, which entered the inning ahead by two runs. David Phelps entered and allowed a full-count RBI single to Goldschmidt, but Phelps escaped further damage, preserving a one-run lead.

Video: ARI@MIA: Goldschmidt drives an RBI single to right

"It brings Phelps in and puts him in a tough spot, facing one of the best hitters in baseball," Locke said. "It's all on me that inning, for sure. Maybe if I put those guys away, it's a different outcome tonight. I'll be thinking about that last inning for a while."

Locke has the Marlins thinking as well -- positive thoughts.

A free-agent signing last December after being with the Pirates, Locke was sidelined pretty much all of Spring Training with an injury. He opened the season on the disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis and missed the first two months.

Locke was reinstated Thursday, with left-hander Justin Nicolino placed on the 10-day DL with a bruised left index finger.

Video: ARI@MIA: Locke on his strong start in his 2017 debut

After giving up one run with seven strikeouts and no walks in 5 2/3 innings, Locke erased any doubts that he will have a rotation spot. He will next start Tuesday at the Cubs.

"He was really good," Mattingly said. "Surprisingly good."

Not to be misconstrued, but neither Mattingly nor the Marlins nor anyone else really knew what to expect. Locke was shut down days into Spring Training. He had missed so much time and had four rehab starts in May before facing Zack Greinke and a tough D-backs lineup.

"He came out doing what he wanted with the baseball," Mattingly said. "He kept them off balance. That's a good-hitting ballclub over there. That was nice to see."

Video: ARI@MIA: Mattingly talks about Locke's strong start

Locke threw 80 pitches with 56 strikes. Per Statcast™, he had 12 swinging strikes and 16 called strikes.

Locke's delivery even has a little deception as he went back to using the half-turn toward second that he previously incorporated a couple of years ago in Pittsburgh. In 2016, he tinkered with other windups.

"I went away from the turn last year," Locke said. "We tried something new -- over the head with our hands. But we kicked it right back to what's been successful for us in the past. I do think it adds some deception."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Jeff Locke