Although closer Mark Melancon allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen stiffened and finally salvaged a victory for left-handed starter Jeff Locke (1-1) as the Bucs edged Tampa Bay 6-5 in a game played Tuesday night in St. Petersburg.
The victory was Pittsburgh’s fourth straight, and pushed them above the .500 mark for the first time since they stood 7-6 on April 15. The Pirates are now 39-38.
Previously, Locke had been the losing pitcher in a 1-0 decision, and had left his last two starts with substantial leads only to see the bullpen allow opponents’ comebacks and force the Pirates to win both games in extra innings. On Tuesday, he worked 7-and-a-third innings, leaving the game with a 6-3 lead after having allowed a two-run, eighth-inning home run to the Rays’ Evan Longoria. Jared Hughes and Tony Watson finished the eighth frame. In the ninth, Melancon allowed three hits, including a two-run single to Brandon Guyer, before getting Longoria to pop up to end the game and recording his 13th save in 16 opportunities this season.
Andrew McCutchen drove in a pair of Pittsburgh runs with a single and a ground ball, and Russell Martin slammed a solo homer. Starling Marte and Josh Harrison both contributed RBI singles, and Neil Walker, who had just returned from the disabled list following an appendectomy, recorded a sacrifice fly. Martin tallied two of the Pirates’ eight hits. Designated hitter Logan Forsythe finished with three of the Rays’ 12 base hits.
Locke allowed three runs and eight hits, striking out four batters and walking two. For Tampa Bay (31-48), starter Chris Archer (4-5) took the loss, giving up five runs (4 earned) and seven hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts and two walks.
On Wednesday afternoon (12:10 PM), the Pirates will try for a sweep of the three-game series, sending right-hander Charlie Morton (4-8) against Rays lefty David Price (5-7).