Well, time has told.
Right now, time says Jeff Locke is simply the Pirates’ best starting pitcher. The ace of the staff. If tomorrow was April 1, Jeff Locke would be a lock to be the Pirates’ opening day starter. With the NL’s second best ERA at just 2.01 (only Clayton Kershaw’s 1.84 is better), it’s a practically a lock he’ll be the Pirates’ All-Star representative come this July 16 at Citi Field in New York if he keeps it up for few more weeks.
He did nothing to diminish that prediction in another stellar performance against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 3 of 4 in the battle for NL Wild Card supremacy, and was all set to win his seventh straight game of the season when Jason Grilli blew his first save opportunity of the year. The Reds tied the game in the ninth off Grilli on Jay Bruce‘s 14th homer of the season, erasing a win that looked to be a lock for Locke. Grilli had been a perfect 25 for 25 in save opportunities and was all set to break Joel Hanrahans’ Pirate record for consecutive saves when Bruce’s blast rewrote the script. Tossing 7 scoreless innings of four-hit baseball, Locke’s A-plus effort was all for not as the Pirates wound end up losing the game 2-1 in 13 innings on Brandon Phillips’ bases-loader high-hopper up the middle. Relief pitcher Vin Mazzaro took the loss for the Bucs.
It’s still a bit early, but Jeff Locke is arguably putting up numbers that would put him in consideration for a Cy Young award. Only the aforementioned Kershaw and Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz (1.84) have better ERA’s in all of baseball. Add that to the fact that Locke has started half of the Pirates’ 12 MLB-leading team shutouts this year and you have a candidate for just about any pitching awards that may come up this season.
Of course, winning a Cy Young is no lock even if Locke keeps pitching like he has for the remainder of the year. But then again, neither is it a long-shot.