Locke takes lumps to spare bullpen

Left-hander becomes first Pirate to allow 11 earned runs since Burnett in 2012

Locke takes lumps to spare bullpen

DENVER -- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And for Jeff Locke, who started the first and last game of a four-game series that spanned six weeks and some 10,000 miles, it was an unusual time, to say the least.

When Locke opened the series in Colorado on April 25, striking out eight over six shutout innings in a 6-1 win that sparked three straight wins over the Rockies. The fourth game was called well before game time due to inclement weather -- weather that never materialized as predicted -- and a makeup game was scheduled for six weeks later on an off-day in the middle of a Pirates homestand.

Locke pitched the finale on Thursday, but the results couldn't have been more different. He gave up 11 runs (all earned) on 11 hits and three walks over 4 2/3 innings in the Pirates' 11-5 loss.

"It's definitely a tough one to take," Locke said. "No one wants to take it like that. But we got to move on, got to keep going."

He's only the second pitcher to give up 11 earned runs this season, joining the Rangers' Derek Holland, who did in 2 2/3 innings, allowing 11 hits and three walks on May 5 against the Blue Jays.

The last Pirate to go to 11 was A.J. Burnett, who went 2 2/3 allowing 12 earned runs on 12 hits and a walk against St. Louis on May 2, 2012.

"It's just part of the game," Locke said. "Anything can happen. Today I just didn't do a very good job locating pitches. We threw strikes, but they hit them. We threw balls, and they put the bat on them. It was just one mistake after another one."

He threw 101 pitches (61 for strikes) and nearly finished the fifth on a day when the Bucs needed to spare their bullpen.

"We were trying, as we told him, to just get all your pitches out of you," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Get 100 pitches out of him and see where that put us so we could find a way to competitively rebalance the bullpen going into a weekend series with St. Louis. And he understands that. He's a 28-year-old man that's grown. He's mentally tough. I told him, 'We'll just kick this one to the curb and move on. Look what you did the last four times out, the advancements you made and the progress you made. Keep hunting the good, and we'll move on together.'"

Locke was 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA over his last four games, including a shutout in Miami on May 30. He made it look easy those games, but Thursday was about grinding it out.

"The biggest thing to me is you can't give in," Locke said. "The team hasn't given in, the team hasn't quit on you, you can't quit on them. I could moan and pout and complain about me not having a great day today, but at the end of the day, the team kept fighting behind me, and that's what a good team does."

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.