Bad luck, defensive miscues compound Locke's woes

Bad luck, defensive miscues compound Locke's woes

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres hit ground ball after ground ball in the second inning on Wednesday night, typically a good sign for any pitcher. But that wasn't the case for Pirates lefty Jeff Locke.

The Padres beat Locke with a barrage of ground balls as he battled through a four-run, 40-pitch second inning in the Pirates' 8-2 loss at Petco Park. Locke's final line was unsightly -- eight runs on 11 hits and four walks while recording nine outs, pushing his ERA to 7.24 -- but he wasn't altogether unhappy with the way he pitched.

"You've got to continue to keep putting the ball on the ground," Locke said. "Regardless of the outcome of the game, I don't think you change a whole lot."

Locke wasn't alone in his assessment.

"He pitches to contact. Tonight's the prime example of exactly what we want to do," catcher Chris Stewart said. "It just didn't go our way."

Padres' four-run 2nd inning

Locke entered the year hoping to be more consistent as he hopes to shore up the back end of the Pirates' rotation. He followed a solid season debut by tying a career high with seven walks, then he gave up eight runs on Wednesday night.

It's been a constant struggle to put away batters for Locke, and that continued in his third start of the year.

The Padres sent nine men to the plate in the second inning. Locke didn't do himself any favors by walking two of them. But six of them hit ground balls, and only two of those ground balls made it out of the infield. Yet, by the time it was over, San Diego had a four-run lead.

"They did the old hit-em-where-they-ain't thing," Locke said. "You've still got to find a way to attack guys and hope these balls on the ground find gloves."

Even when those grounders did find a glove, the Pirates struggled to convert them into outs.

After a leadoff walk, Derek Norris hit a grounder down the left-field line. David Freese made a sharp diving stop, and Francisco Cervelli stretched for the ball at first base, but Norris beat the throw. Jemile Weeks drove in a run on a chopper that skipped past Freese into left field. That quickly, it was 2-0.

"He was getting the ball on the ground," shortstop Jordy Mercer said. "It was just out of our reach."

With one out, Jon Jay reached on another run-scoring infield single. Wil Myers hit a grounder to Cervelli, who turned to start a double play but found second base unoccupied, and beat Locke to the bag when he tried to cover first base.

Locke finally got out of the second inning, perhaps fittingly, on a ground-ball double play.

"Pitchers go out there and try to get ground balls. Unfortunately they were pretty much hit where we weren't," Stewart said. "I wouldn't say [Locke] was spot on today, but he was definitely good enough to go deep in the game and give us a chance to win."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.