One day after Neil Walker’s second start in the month of August for a back injury that’s kept him inactive for two weeks but not on the disabled list, Walker is out of the lineup again tonight. I’m honestly speechless; the Pirates have had a pretty bad habit of keeping short rosters due to injured-but-not-disabled players for the entire Neal Huntington era, but they’ve never botched the handling of an injury this badly.
Jordy Mercer is out of the lineup again tonight, so Josh Harrison is still at short and Pedro Alvarez is still at third base. Jeff Locke is starting for the Pirates, and like last night’s starter Charlie Morton, Locke has been awful lately. In his last five starts, he’s got an ERA of 6.00 and his control problems have returned. He looks very much like the Jeff Locke that couldn’t hold down a rotation spot in the second half of 2013. I talked about this on Twitter some this morning, but it’s amazing to me that even with Andrew McCutchen on the disabled list, the Pirates’ clear and obvious biggest problem is their starting rotation. Gerrit Cole pitched awfully well for the second straight rehab start in a row last night, but he’s only one pitcher and the Pirates’ problems are bigger than that.
Anyway, Locke will face off against Gio Gonzalez, who’s having a rough year on the surface, but who’s peripherals are pretty close to being in line with his excellent 2012 season in DC. That being said, Gonzalez has been roughed up a few times since the beginning of July, and so maybe there’s an opportunity here for the Pirates. The Pirates really do need a win tonight; with these three straight losses in Detroit and DC, the Pirates have fallen 3 1/2 games behind the Brewers, and if they lose another game to the Brewers tonight, they’d be outside of what I’d consider “striking distance” with six weeks left in the season. Not that they’d necessarily be out of competition for the Central, just that being more than four games out with less than six weeks left is not a good place to be.
First pitch tonight is at 7:05.