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Locke faces Red Sox; sharp over final two innings

CONWAY — Jeff Locke got an opportunity to face the Boston Red Sox — his favorite team growing up in Redstone, on Friday night when he made his second start of Spring Training for the Pittsburg Pirates in JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida before a sold-out crowd of 9,383. The Red Sox won the game 5-2.

Locke, the son of Pam and Alan Locke of Redstone, went three innings, giving up three runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out three and threw a wild pitch.

Locke faced seven Boston batters in the first inning and the first five reached base, although leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single. He walked Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino before Mike Napoli's RBI single and a run-scoring double by Stephen Drew. It was Napoli's first at-bat for the Sox — he singled sharply off Locke's shin.

A wild pitch scored Napoli before Locke struck out Daniel Nava and Ryan Lavarnway to end the inning. Locke faced just six batters in his next two innings, including fanning Napoli in their second encounter.

"I felt fine," Locke said. "It was good to get back out there and compete again. Obviously a very rough first inning. I don't know if it was just trying to aim it too much or not being aggressive enough. But I felt like after the storm there the sun came out a little bit and I started to throw better pitches. I was able to get out of the first and then I settled down. Still fell behind some guys but it's spring training still, we've got a long way ahead of us. Just got to take the positive from today and move on."

The Red Sox added two runs in the fifth off Phil Irwin.

Pittsburgh scored two in the eighth off knuckleballer Steven Wright and had the potential tying run at the plate in the ninth, but could not score.

"Came up a little short," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Gave ourselves an opportunity in the eighth and ninth with the tying run to the plate. But I thought we settled down. Jeffrey got a little sideways early, a couple walks and a ball off the shin. The game could have gotten away from him, but he was able to settle down. He got through the first and then put two zeros up there.

"We just have to keep battling, keep getting at-bats, get some rhythm, get some games in. We'll be fine."

Locke, who is the current front runner to secure the No. 5 spot in the rotation for Pittsburgh, is 1-1 this spring. In six innings pitched against the Tampa Rays and Red Sox, he had allowed four hits, three runs, walked three and struck out four while holding opponents to a .211 batting average.

Locke should see the mound again this week with a start against wither the Blue Jays on Wednesday or the Phillies on Thursday.
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