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Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jeff Locke Unable To Break Through Post-Break Wall

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, the perils of young pitching.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, once owners of perhaps the best starting staff in 2013 with a league-leading 3.27 ERA in the first half, knows all about the the season being a marathon and not a sprint. Unfortunately, at least as far as the rotation goes, it’s a race where they’re poised to limp to the end — even if that end means their best season in decades.

You won’t have to look far than the team’s 15th-ranked 3.96 starters ERA to see that things have not gone quite as well for the starting five since the Midsummer Classic, and no one knows that better than Jeff Locke.

After all, he is the main culprit here.

Sure, Francisco Liriano has followed his vintage change-of-scenery resurgence by being Francisco Liriano again (3.91/1.30 ERA/WHIP through 48.1 post-break innings), but that’s nothing compared to what could only be described as a total collapse in Locke’s performance.

The craft lefty, who surprised the league by putting together an elite 2.15/1.13 ERA/WHIP through his first 109 innings of the season, is now putting up the kind of 4.2-inning, eight-hit, five-run performance that the Bucs saw on Tuesday like it’s going out of style.

Needless to say, his latest disaster was a major factor in the Bucs’ 7-6 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers that’s now put them 1.5 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Central lead.

Not only that, but Locke’s latest turn also marked the fifth time in his last six starts where he’s allowed three or more runs; that wouldn’t be a particularly big deal in itself … except he also hasn’t gotten out of the fifth inning in four of those six starts, including his last three.

With a 6.18/2.06 ERA/WHIP (yes, which WHIP is almost as high as his first-half ERA) over his last 39.1 innings, Locke has not only been the Pirates’ worst pitcher in the second half — he’s one of the worst in the league (sixth-worst ERA, to be exact), period. Though the Bucs are still poised for the postseason (95.3 percent heading into play on Wednesday) despite the struggles of who used to be one of the team’s best pitchers, there’s still plenty to be concerned about.

Pirates fans have seen this sorry story before with James McDonald already, and if the Pirates are hoping to avoid the one-game Wild Card round or to go much further beyond that … well, let’s just say they’re going to have to find a solution for the broken Locke (sorry, had to).

Thom is an MLB writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @BlueJaysRant, or add him to your network on Google