Diamondbacks-Pirates Preview

Jeff Locke’s All-Star season has helped the Pittsburgh Pirates

possess one of the most efficient pitching staffs in the major

leagues.

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson simply wants some

stability in his rotation.

Locke takes the mound as Pittsburgh seeks a seventh straight

home victory Saturday while facing Diamondbacks starter Trevor

Cahill, who returns after a nearly seven-week stint on the disabled

list.

Pittsburgh (72-49) leads the competitive NL Central by three

games largely because of a 3.12 ERA that is the best in baseball.

It had lost five of its previous six but busted out of its slump

after rookie Gerrit Cole pitched six solid innings in Friday’s 6-2

win over Arizona.

Pedro Alvarez drove in two runs and Jose Tabata hit a two-run

homer after going 3 for 3 off the bench in Thursday’s loss to St.

Louis.

“I know people are saying the Pittsburgh Pirates need a right

fielder,” said Tabata, who was 2 for his last 14 prior to

Thursday. “It makes me feel like I’ve got to do something. I just

want to help my team win.”

The Pirates rank second in the majors with a 2.69 ERA at home,

including a 2.29 mark during a six-game winning streak at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh has won six of Locke’s seven starts there, and he’ll be

on the hill again Saturday trying to give his team its first

seven-game run at home since April 27-May 12, 2008.

Locke (9-3, 2.43 ERA), though, had gone 0-1 with a 4.96 ERA over

his previous three starts before giving up two runs – one earned –

in 5 2-3 innings of Pittsburgh’s 3-2 loss to Colorado on

Sunday.

“(Sunday) was definitely a step back in the right direction

mechanically, mentally,” Locke said. “Everything felt back to

normal.”

Despite Locke’s four walks, manager Clint Hurdle focused more on

the fact the left-hander allowed fewer than three earned runs for

the 16th time.

“I’m real impressed with Locke’s outing,” Hurdle said. “Better

tempo, better rhythm.”

Locke has yet to start against the Diamondbacks (62-58), though

he pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings of relief in the Pirates’ 6-3

loss Aug. 9, 2012.

Arizona’s pitching staff, meanwhile, has dealt with injuries to

Cahill (3-10, 4.66) and Brandon McCarthy while also shipping Ian

Kennedy to San Diego at the trade deadline. The starters have a

4.68 ERA in August, and Gibson is hoping Cahill can help improve

that number.

Cahill hasn’t pitched since giving up six runs in 4 1-3 innings

of a 6-2 loss to Atlanta on June 30. He went on the disabled list

the following day with a right hip contusion, which he reportedly

suffered after getting hit with a line drive that forced him to

leave his start June 19.

Prior to going on the DL, Cahill went 0-6 with a 7.91 ERA over

his last eight starts. Gibson, though, is confident the

right-hander can bounce back.

“He’s got good stuff,” Gibson told the team’s official website.

“We need him to throw the ball good and be consistent and go deeper

in games for us, and to have our rotation kind of solidified.”

Cahill wasn’t at his best against the Pirates on April 8, giving

up four runs in five innings of a 5-3 loss despite striking out

seven.

The Diamondbacks had won six of their previous eight but

mustered only five hits in Friday’s defeat. Cliff Pennington

started for shortstop Didi Gregorius, who is 2 for 29 (.069) over

his last eight.

Pittsburgh has won three of the four meetings this season.