MLB

Sat, Sep 10, 2011 - 7:05 PM ET
 

Marlins-Pirates Preview

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Excited to make his major league debut, Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke said upon arriving in Pittsburgh that "Saturday can't come soon enough."

After watching what the Florida Marlins did at the plate Friday, he might be a little less enthusiastic.

The Marlins' often-floundering offense seemingly hit everything in sight while cruising to a series-opening win at PNC Park, leaving Locke with plenty of concerns as he takes the hill for the first time Saturday night.

Florida (64-79) has been held to one run or fewer 31 times and entered Friday averaging 3.8 runs since June 1 - 27th in the majors - so games like its 1-0 loss to New York on Thursday come as little surprise.

That's why, even against a Pirates staff that has baseball's worst ERA (5.24) since Aug. 1, Friday's performance was such a surprise. The Marlins had a franchise-record 10 hits during a nine-run third inning and finished with 22 in a 13-4 rout.

"I'm pretty sure this happens every week for the Yankees and the Red Sox, but it doesn't for us," said left fielder Logan Morrison, who had a career-high four hits - including a two-run homer. "It was a lot of fun."

Just one game into a season-high 11-game road trip, though, manager Jack McKeon was already looking ahead.

"I was thinking let's save some runs for the rest of the trip," McKeon said.

Charlie Morton was slated to get the ball for Pittsburgh (66-78) on Saturday, but the Pirates decided to give the right-hander a few extra days of rest after his recent rough patch.

That means Locke, called up Tuesday from Triple-A Indianapolis, will make his debut. He had a 2.22 ERA in five starts with Indianapolis after going 7-8 with a 4.03 ERA with Double-A Altoona.

Perhaps most alluring to the Pirates, who are last in the majors in strikeouts per nine inning (5.67), is his ability to miss bats. Locke struck out 8.2 hitters per nine innings in the minors.

Locke is certainly excited for the opportunity.

"Absolutely, anytime you get a chance to try to make an impact in an organization, and get a big league call-up and get a start, it's a big honor," Locke told the Pirates' official website.

Locke may catch a few breaks. Outfielder Mike Stanton and first baseman Jose Lopez suffered strained right hamstrings and left Friday's game, the same injury that's kept Mike Cameron out since Tuesday.

Florida turns to Anibal Sanchez (7-7, 3.83), who is eighth in the majors in strikeouts per nine innings (9.09). However, it's been a struggle for the right-hander since he went 6-1 with a 3.06 ERA in his first 13 starts.

He's 1-6 with a 4.60 ERA in his last 15 outings, though a woeful 2.51 runs of support per nine innings haven't helped. Sanchez left with a 3-2 lead after six Sunday against Philadelphia, but the bullpen blew that cushion before Florida rallied for a 5-4, 14-inning win.

Sanchez is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in two career starts versus Pittsburgh, with 13 strikeouts in 13 innings.

He should feel confident in his chances to rack up a few more, as Pittsburgh leads the majors with 473 strikeouts since the All-Star break.

Tagged: Pirates, Marlins, Anibal Sanchez

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