Locke keeps Pirates in wild-card hunt with 9 Ks

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Starling Marte had turned toward a crowd of media at his locker when a passing teammate cracked a one-liner about the soft-spoken outfielder.

”What do they think they’ll get out of Marte,” he asked.

In words, maybe not much.

At the plate, enough to keep Pittsburgh in the hunt for a second straight playoff spot.

Marte hit a two-run homer and fell a triple short of the cycle to help the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-4 on Monday night.

Jeff Locke (7-4) struck out nine over seven strong innings to help the Pirates go up 1 1-2 games on Milwaukee and Atlanta for the second wild card.

”The second wild card has opened up so many opportunities for so many teams, so many cities,” manager Clint Hurdle said. ”It’s been so exciting for fans. For more teams to try and pay attention to it would be chaotic.”

Locke and Kyle Kendrick (8-12) were in pitcher’s duel until Pittsburgh bust open a one-run lead with four runs in the eighth. The Pirates won their fourth straight and are 65-50 since May 2.

Marte has been a big reason for the hot streak. He singled, doubled and homered in his first three plate appearances and extended his hitting streak to eight games. He’s batting .358 (38 for 106) with six homers and a 1.018 OPS over his last 28 games.

”I’ve been more comfortable,” he said. ”We are in a very good spot right now.”

Mark Melancon tossed a scoreless ninth for his 27th save.

Locke, who improved to 4-0 lifetime against the Phillies, retired the first 10 batters until Jimmy Rollins hit a one-out triple in the fourth. He scored on Ryan Howard’s single and 92nd RBI of the season.

Locke, though, fanned Howard twice and struck out at least one batter in every inning. His nine Ks were a season high and three more than he had combined in his last three starts (6). Locke rebounded nicely after lasting only 3-plus innings in a loss to St. Louis in his last start.

He gave up just one run and kept the Pirates in contention for another playoff berth.

”He had his best performance of the season,” Hurdle said. ”Locke pitched as good a game as we could have ever hoped for him to pitch tonight.”

The Pirates gave reason for their fans to cheer – and plenty did, with ”Let’s Go Pirates!” echoing through a mostly barren Citizens Bank Park with every rally.

Marte’s 11th homer gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead in the fifth. The Pirates chased Kendrick in the eighth, with Neil Walker, Jordy Mercer and Brent Morel all producing run-scoring hits and Gabby Sanchez chipped in with a sacrifice fly.

The Pirates are 4-0 against the Phillies this season, beating up on the bad teams a necessity in any playoff push.

”If we play our best ball in the 19 remaining games, we’ll get in,” Hurdle said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: INF Josh Harrison was out of the lineup for a third straight game after aggravating a left ankle injury in the completion of a suspended game on Saturday. Harrison was available to pinch hit. … INF Pedro Alvarez’s left foot injury is not improving as much they would have hoped and he also sat out. He did travel with the team to Philadelphia.

Phillies: Rollins was replaced by Freddy Galvis for the top of the fifth. Rollins strained his left hamstring after legging out a one-out triple in the fourth. Rollins has played in 138 of 143 games this season. Rollins said he expected to miss at least 10 games. ”Just one of those things reaching out for the bag,” Rollins said. ”It isn’t that severe.”

UP NEXT

Pirates: Edinson Volquez (11-7, 3.31 ERA) has won seven of his last eight decisions and his 10-4 overall in his last 21 starts. He is 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA in five career starts against the Phillies.

Phillies: David Buchanan (6-7, 3.95 ERA) has three straight no-decisions and hasn’t won a game since Aug. 6. He took the loss after allowing three runs against the Pirates on July 5.

BATTING CROWN: Phillies OF Ben Revere went 0 for 4 and saw his average dip to .313 as he chases the NL batting crown. Colorado’s Justin Morneau was batting .316. Harrison was hitting .315.