Locke leads Pirates into opener with Marlins

Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star Jeff Locke aims to rebound from a rare rough outing as he takes the hill on Tuesday night to pitch the opener of a three-game series against the Miami Marlins.

Locke is an impressive 9-3 with a 2.36 earned run average through 21 starts this season, but was less than sharp on Wednesday versus the St. Louis Cardinals in a no-decision.

In his shortest outing of the season, the 25-year-old southpaw allowed a season-high 10 hits over four innings and the four earned runs he allowed also matched a season high, last done on April 18.

"This is the most on and off we've seen Jeff," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told his club's website. "He was pitching to the edges, not getting back into counts, after throwing 17 first-pitch strikes out of 23. But he gave it everything he had. But after four runs and 10 hits, it was time to pull the plug."

That outing came after Locke dropped a 2-0 decision in Miami on July 26, giving up both runs and striking out nine over 6 2/3 innings.

Locke was outdueled by Henderson Alvarez, who faces off against the Pirates starter again tonight.

Alvarez, one of the players involved in last November's mega trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, made his Marlins debut on July 4 and picked up his first win with the club in the outing versus the Pirates. The righty logged six scoreless innings while facing Pittsburgh for the first time.

Alvarez followed up by beating the New York Mets on Wednesday, allowing two runs over 7 1/3 innings.

"(Alvarez) went out there and did exactly what we needed," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "It was fun to watch him."

The 23-year-old has given up just four runs over his last four outings, spanning 27 innings, and has yielded more than three earned runs in just of his six outings this season. He is 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA for the Marlines.

Alvarez's victory over the Pirates came in the opener of a three-game set versus Pittsburgh, a series in which Miami won twice. The Marlins then split a four-game series with the Mets and lost two of three to Cleveland to conclude a 10-game homestand at 5-5.

The Marlins were blanked 2-0 by Cleveland on Sunday, but have still gone 30-26 since May 31. They play the first of nine straight on the road tonight.

"We're not getting a ton of hits, and in a game like this that hurts you," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said.

The Pirates have won six of eight so far on an 11-game homestand that concludes with this series. They got a gem from A.J. Burnett in Sunday's 5-1 win over Colorado, with the righty logging his first complete game of the season.

"This was his best game of the season," Hurdle said of his starter.

The Pirates swept the Marlins in three games the last time the clubs played in Pittsburgh, from July 20-22 in 2012.