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Locke strikes out eight over five innings

The Pirates' elimination number sits at one entering Wednesday's meeting with the Mets, their second-half swoon nearly complete as a loss or a Cardinals win will officially eliminate them from playoff contention.

So the development of 24-year-old Jeff Locke is the point of emphasis as the left-hander takes the mound opposite Jeremy Hefner to make his fifth start of the season and ninth of his Major League career.

Locke enters his start at Citi Field with a 5.88 career ERA in 10 appearances -- two out of the bullpen -- and an 0-5 record. But the Pirates will continue to send Locke and fellow rookie Kyle McPherson to the mound, although both are winless in their careers.

"Our focus right now is to get them some starts," said manager Clint Hurdle. "As we build the club going forward, whatever changes might take place, we want to add value to that starting rotation."

The Mets will want the same from their own rookie starter, Hefner, who saw his ERA jump nearly an entire run his last time out, when he didn't record an out against the Phillies and allowed seven earned runs.

Hefner showed promise early in the season, providing valuable spot starts, then throwing eight innings of one-run ball in late August against the Astros. But he also was unable to finish three innings twice this month.

"I don't want to sit through a whole nine-inning game that I started, that's very disappointing," Hefner said after his most recent outing. "Words can't even describe how embarrassing that is."

Pirates: McCutchen maintains NL-best batting average
Andrew McCutchen went 1-for-3 with two runs scored in Tuesday's 10-6 win, keeping his batting average at .336 with a hit in his seventh consecutive game.

McCutchen leads San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey for the batting title, with Melky Cabrera and his .346 average ineligible for the crown after the Giants outfielder tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, receiving a 50-game suspension.

Cabrera took himself out of the batting title race last week, a request that commissioner Bud Selig granted.

"[It] took a man to be able to go out and say, 'This isn't me, I don't deserve it,' and he knocked himself out of that race," McCutchen said. "He gained a lot of respect for being able to do that. To be able to win a batting title in Pittsburgh ... it would definitely be a nice individual effort."

Mets: Bay's back keeps him out of lineup
Back stiffness kept Jason Bay out of the Mets' lineup Tuesday against Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez, a left-hander against whom Bay typically would be in the lineup.

Bay already missed extended time earlier this season with a fractured rib and concussion, and is simply adding another injury to the book in his three years with the Mets. After arriving in New York with a career batting average of .280, Bay has hit .233 as a Met, including a .155 average in 67 games this season.

Collins was unwilling to directly equate Bay's injury history to his lack of production.

"I think it may be two separate things," Collins said. "Jason Bay is one of those guys who does play less than 100 percent [healthy]. He's just a gamer. He just goes out and plays. It's tough for me to answer how that reflects on the fact that he hasn't produced here. I don't know how bad he's been hurt in the past."

Worth noting
• The Mets hit back-to-back homers for the first time this season on Tuesday, when Justin Turner and David Wright took Rodriguez deep in the first inning. It marked Wright's sixth 20-homer season, tying Mike Piazza for second most all time in Mets history. Darryl Strawberry holds the record with eight. Wright also tied Ed Kranepool for most hits in franchise history at 1,418 later in the game.

• Josh Harrison tripled in the second inning Tuesday against Collin McHugh to give the Pirates three consecutive games with a triple -- two at Citi Field and one at Minute Maid Park in Houston. It gave the Pirates 36 triples on the season, their most since 2008, when they hit 38.

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