When Jeff Locke took the mound in the bottom of the first, walked Jonathan Lucroy, and served up a two-run homer to Ryan Braun on a silver platter, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I’m sure I wasn’t alone on that front; we’ve all seen that movie before. Locke’s control looked awfully iffy out of the gate, the Pirates’ offense hasn’t really clicked since Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen both re-joined the lineup last week, and the game was in Miller Park, to boot. I prepared for a long night.
In the top of the second, Russell Martin reached on an error, then Gaby Sanchez and Starling Marte drew walks. Bases loaded, no outs, and the bottom of the order due up. Another movie that we’ve all seen before. Jordy Mercer drove in one run with a sac fly, and Jeff Locke meekly flew out. Just when it looked like another disappointing inning, Josh Harrison drove a flyball to the right field warning track, and Ryan Braun misplayed it into a two-run double. Even Greg Brown sounded surprised that the Pirates had cashed all three runs in from a bases loaded, no outs situation
I’d be lying if I said that I felt OK with a 3-2 lead after 1 1/2 innings in Miller Park. Given that the two teams had combined for five runs on a total of two hits, it felt awfully flukey. Somehow, though, Jeff Locke managed to shore things up despite not having good stuff at all, while the Pirates kept on hitting. Andrew McCutchen got his first hit since returning from the DL in the third with an infield single, then scored on a Neil Walker triple. Harrison drove in a third run in the fourth, bringing Starling Marte (who had two hits, a walk, and scored three times last night) home with a single. In the fifth, McCutchen absolutely obliterated a Yovani Gallardo fastball, hitting the ball 435 feet to right center, landing the ball in the wheel well of a Toyota Highlander that someone thought was far away enough from home plate to be safe from a right-handed hitter less than three weeks removed from a broken rib. Harrison ended the scoring in the eighth with a two-run homer, scoring Marte again and bringing his RBI total on the night to five.
That six-run lead was enough to be comfortable, even as John Axford gave up three hits and a run in the bottom of the eighth and Justin Wilson walked two hitters in the ninth. On the whole, the Pirates walked eight Brewers and only struck one out, mostly thanks to Locke’s total lack of control. It’s not often that you’ll get a comfortable 8-3 win with a 1:8 K:BB ratio on the night, but I won’t complain too much about it. The Pirates beat the Brewers handily, Andrew McCutchen looks like he’s back, and the NL Central standings are a little bit closer this morning than they were when last night’s games started. Couldn’t really have asked for a better way to start the series.