Bucs rely on Locke in finale with Twins

(SportsNetwork.com) - Jeff Locke attempts to halt his personal five-start winless streak on Wednesday night and pitch the Pittsburgh Pirates to a split of their two-game series with the Minnesota Twins.

Locke won his first two outings of the season, both against the Milwaukee Brewers, but has gone 0-2 since. He was drilled for five runs, six hits and three walks over 3 2/3 innings of a no-decision against the Chicago Cubs on Friday. He yielded a pair of homers and has allowed five home runs over his past three outings.

The 27-year-old southpaw, who has a 7.27 earned run average over his winless rut, has never faced the Twins. He is 2-2 on the year with a 5.40 ERA.

The Twins will hope that Mike Pelfrey can return to the win column tonight after the right-hander suffered his first loss of the season last time out.

Pelfrey won his first three decisions and the Twins won each of his previous five starts before a 13-1 setback at the Detroit Tigers on Thursday. Pelfrey was charged with five runs -- four earned -- on a season-high 10 hits over 4 2/3 innings.

The 31-year-old saw his ERA rise to 3.23 and he is 3-2 in six career starts against the Pirates with a 4.78 ERA.

The Twins won last night's series opener 8-5 behind an early barrage that featured a six-run second inning. Trevor Plouffe capped the big frame with a two-run homer, while Joe Mauer knocked in three runs and Brian Dozier added a solo homer to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.

Ricky Nolasco earned the win despite giving up 10 hits and four runs -- three earned -- over 5 2/3 innings. He did strike out eight and issued just one walk. Glen Perkins locked down the ninth for his 14th save, giving the Twins their third victory in four games.

"They scored one (run) a bunch of times," said Twins manager Paul Molitor. "That's a good sign, staying away from big innings."

Francisco Liriano recorded only six outs, exiting after allowing seven runs on five hits with a pair of walks for the Pirates.

Josh Harrison went 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI for the Pirates, losers in five of their last six. Jung-Ho Kang posted three hits and an RBI, Neil Walker collected two hits and drove in a run, and Pedro Alvarez homered in defeat.

"Guys are battling their butts off, man. The work we've put in, it's gonna pay off," said Harrison. "Guys are working. Nobody's feeling sorry for themselves. We're all out here working."

Alvarez's homer traveled an estimated 461 feet, landing on a boat docked in the Allegheny River. He joined Houston's Daryle Ward (2002) and former Pirate Garrett Jones (2013) as the only players to reach the river on the fly.

These clubs last faced each other during the 2012 season.