Published Date Written by Lloyd JonesCONWAY — To say Jeff Locke is rolling is an understatement. The former Kennett High standout tossed seven and a third scoreless innings for the Indianapolis Indians (the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates) on Friday and remains a near certainty to get a call up to the Major Leagues next month when rosters expand — or it could be even sooner than that.
Locke struck out 10 Triple-A Yankees and led the Indians to a 2-0 win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Frontier Field in Rochester, New York. He was named the Pirates' Minor League Pitcher of the Week for his performance.
Locke's recent success earned him mention on Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet on Friday morning prior to his start Friday night.
"Pirates command-and-control LHP Jeff Locke has been a consistent performer in the International League all season, ranking fifth in ERA (2.83) and 10th in strikeout rate (7.9 per nine), all while boasting a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He had one of his best starts against Buffalo this week, striking out four in seven shutout innings," Baseball America wrote.
Locke, who earned a three-day call-up to Pittsburgh earlier this season, was promoted to Pittsburgh last September and made four starts for the Pirates down the stretch of their season.
Over his last 10 starts, Locke — nicknamed The Redstone Rocket — has been arguably the best pitcher in the International League, going 5-2 with a 1.98 earned run average while striking out 53 and walking just 24 batters.
Locke (7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K) was outstanding in his 21st start for Indianapolis, throwing into the eighth inning for the first time in 2012. He had thrown exactly 7.0 innings six times coming into the game. With the win he improved to 9-5 on the season.
His 10 strikeouts were one shy of his season high; Locke struck out 11 Bats on May 27 in Louisville. Meanwhile, he has now tossed 14.1 straight scoreless innings across his past two outings, posting impressive numbers (14.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 9 SO).
Locke is now third in ERA in the International League with a 2.66 ERA, trailing just Tyler Cloyd of Lehigh Valley (of the Philadelphia Phillies affiliate, 1.93) and Justin German of Pawtucket (Boston Red Sox, 2.40); ranks fourth in the league in strikeouts with 113 (leader has 128); and is seventh in wins (five are tied with 11 and one has 10).
Locke's stellar effort led to his ninth win of the season, at the time making him the 12th International League hurler to reach that total in 2012. He's the second Indianapolis pitcher to reach that plateau, still trailing RHP Rick VandenHurk, who has 10 wins.
After recording his 10th strikeout of the ballgame to start the bottom of the seventh, Locke gave up just his third hit of the contest, a double down the right-field line by third baseman Kevin Russo. The southpaw was then lifted in favor of fellow LHP Doug Slaten, who in his last outing had given up just his second earned run of the season on a game-winning home run against the Buffalo Bisons on July 31.
For the season, Locke, the son of Alan and Pam Locke of Redstone and grandson of Greta Locke of Conway, has pitched 125 innings and allowed 115 hits; 40 runs (37 are earned); yielded 9 home runs; walked 38; and struck out 113. Opponents are batting just .247 against the talented left-hander.
Locke's next start, weather-permitting, will be this Wednesday when Indianapolis hosts the Charlotte Knights (Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox) at 1:05 p.m.
Indianapolis continues to have the best record in the International League at 71-45 and holds a 10-game lead over the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Indians affiliate) in the Western Division.