DENVER -- There's room for debate about when Jeff Locke was last as effective as he was on Monday night, dealing six shutout innings against an explosive Rockies lineup while exceeding his strikeout total from his previous three starts with eight in the Pirates' 6-1 win at Coors Field.
"It's been a little while," Locke said, crediting a good game plan developed with catcher Francisco Cervelli for helping him earn his first win of the season. "We figured their team seems to chase a little more north and south than east and west. We elevated a lot of fastballs. We made some good pitches. I feel like we didn't get too predictable the whole time, and I think that's what made us successful."
Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said it the best he's seen Locke since his eight shutout innings against the Indians on July 4, 2015. Locke faced little traffic, never two runners on base after the first inning, and kept the Rockies off-balance throughout.
"He got in such a strong, aggressive rhythm after the second inning," Hurdle said. "Fastball command, the intent, the conviction, the execution. Used the changeup in offensive counts, sprinkled in some curveballs. He pitched very, very effectively, even in some deep counts, when it came go time he made pitches. Eight punchouts, that was good to see. And the pitch efficiency after the second. Big start for him. Big for us, good for him."
Locke wasn't shy about admitting he benefited from some favorable calls behind the plate, with five of his eight strikeouts coming on called third strikes and two leading to ejections for Rockies manager Walt Weiss and two-time strikeout victim Ryan Raburn from home-plate umpire Lance Barrett.
"Some of the calls could probably go either way," Locke said. "When they go your way, you just let them throw the ball around until it gets back to you. We did a good job attacking. I walked [Trevor] Story twice. Not exactly a guy you want to put on base with the guys coming up behind him. But maybe just trying to be too fine, and maybe giving him too much credit, too. I think that's what we do a lot of the time, is give the hitters a little too much credit instead of just attacking."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.