Every game that Jeff Locke has pitched since the All-Star break has been pretty bad. I take that back, he had one nice start a few weeks ago when you thought he might have figured out some of his issues but what we are still seeing is that you can't continue to get through the season not throwing strikes and hoping that balls put in play are being turned into out at an unsustainable rate.
Coming into the game Jeff Locke was ranked last among qualified pitchers in walk rate and today it didn't get any better He walked two hitters in the first inning and both scored. He then gave up a monster home run and before he could record his second out (he got Billy Hamilton out on the first pitch of the game) the Pirates were down 5-0. He didn't come back out for the second inning and likely will not make his next start nor will he be on the postseason roster (you have to assume he won't). Things this year for Locke have gone from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Just a really brutal second half of the season. Fact remains that if he doesn't throw strikes and figure things out he isn't going to be much help for this team going forward.
I know this is going to sound like a hugely hindsight type thought but this was a significantly big game for the Pirates. The difference between being tied for the first wildcard and up two games with six games to go is immense. The Pirates trotted out Locke who has been really bad. There are other guys who could have started this game and I know that a lot of those guys aren't fully stretched out but I can't imagine what the confidence was to throw Locke out there. Just just almost knew bad things were going to happen. It wasn't just Locke today but that start really made it hard for the team.
I could talk about what happened today but instead you can just look at this:
The Pirates used six pitchers that gave up 16 hits to the Reds and 11 runs. Usually solid guys like Jeanmar Gomez and Vin Mazzaro got roughed up really bad and whatever could go wrong did go wrong. I would say it is one of those games but it seems like these games have been happening a lot lately.
The offense had some chances early. They were getting base runners on at a good rate early and forced Reds starter Bronson Arroyo out after only five innings but they couldn't get that one big hit to get back into the game. They had a number of chances to cut the lead to two or three and just couldn't get that big hit. It was just a microcosm of how things have been going.
Neil Walker was a bright spot going 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and a home run but the Pirates managed only five hits on the day. Andrew McCutchen has been struggling in a big way with his last hit coming on Wednesday against the Padres. Every hitter goes through slumps but this was just a brutal time for Cutch to go into one. Hopefully the Cubs can snap him out of it.
The good news is that the Nationals lost today in the first game of the double header. The Pirates magic number is now two. Two more wins and the Pirates are in. There are bigger things than just getting in but man after the last week it would be nice to just know 100% for sure they are in.