Bucs hope to continue strong May in finale with Tigers

(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't posted a winning record since 1992. That also happens to be the last time they put together a month as successful as their current run in May.

The Pirates turn to the streaking Jeff Locke on Thursday evening when they try to secure their third straight victory over the Detroit Tigers in the finale of a two-game series.

Locke has won each of his past five decisions, the longest winning streak by a Pirates left-hander since Zach Duke won six in a row in 2005. He has not lost since his season debut on April 7, which dropped Locke's career record to 1-7. However, he has yielded three earned runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts since with four scoreless outings in that span.

The 25-year-old has not allowed a run over back-to-back victories, hurling seven scoreless innings in a 1-0 win against Houston on May 19 before keeping the Brewers off the board for six frames in a rare victory for Pittsburgh in Milwaukee on Saturday.

"It's just nice to come here and win a game," Locke said after scattering three hits and three walks with a season-high seven strikeouts. "We've struggled here, every body told me, even though I've only pitched here once before. I just know I have to keep attacking and take advantage of my tremendous defense."

Locke, armed with a 2.45 earned run average on the season, faces Detroit for the first time and has been a key contributor to a Pittsburgh club that has gone 18-8 this month. Wednesday's 5-3 win over Detroit gave the Pirates 18 victories in a calendar month for the first time since a 21-8 September in 1992.

After capping a two-game set in Detroit with a 1-0 victory in 11 innings on Tuesday, the Pirates found themselves down by two runs in yesterday's meeting at home before finally getting to Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez in the seventh inning. Pittsburgh scored four runs in the frame, getting a game-tying two-run double from Pedro Alvarez one batter before Travis Snider put the Pirates ahead for good with a run-scoring double of his own.

Jordy Mercer drove in an insurance run in the frame with a single for Pittsburgh, which has won eight of 10 and 15 of its last 19 games.

"A game up here can change quickly and you just have to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the seventh inning.

Coming two outs away from his second career no-hitter in his last start, Sanchez fanned eight and surrendered just a run on two hits until the deciding seventh frame, when he allowed four runs on five hits and a walk.

"He just walked a guy and all of a sudden kind of lost it there momentarily," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said of Sanchez.

Miguel Cabrera cracked a two-run homer for the Tigers, who lost for the third time in their past nine games and also saw outfielder Torii Hunter exit early after getting hit by a pitch on his left elbow. Swelling could force him to sit out tonight's finale.

Getting the call for the Tigers is right-hander Doug Fister, who is coming off a loss last time out to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.

Fister gave up three first-run innings, but did not let the Twins score over his next six frames of work. He allowed a total of eight hits and a walk, also striking out seven but taking a 3-2 defeat.

"Fister settled down after the first inning and he pitched well," said Hunter. "We just couldn't get the run support that he needed."

Fister, who has gone at least seven innings in six of his 10 starts this year, is 5-2 with a 3.65 ERA this year and will face the Pirates for the second time in his career. The 29-year-old lost in Pittsburgh on June 22 of last year, allowing four runs -- two earned -- on eight hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in six innings.

The Tigers and Pirates split six meetings a season ago, with each team winning two of three at home.


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