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PIT@CIN: Locke allows one earned run, fans five

Looking to earn a series sweep to open the second half, the Pirates will send Jeff Locke to the mound Sunday to face Colorado, hoping that the lefty can continue a streak of good starts that began when he rejoined the Bucs rotation in early June.

Locke has reeled off seven straight quality starts since then, resulting in a 2.13 ERA, a .223 batting average against and a .928 WHIP in that span. In his most recent start on July 11, Marte held the Reds to three runs in 6 1/3 innings, scattering a season-high nine hits.

The key to Locke's recent success? He's issued only six walks over 56 innings this season after leading the National League in the stat in 2013.

"I'm trying to limit the walks as much as I can," Locke said. "Last season it was the other way around: Limit the runs. If I walked them, it was no big deal, just don't let them score."

The Rockies will counter with Tyler Matzek, one of several rookies Colorado has tried out in an injury-filled year. The lefty has had a couple of impressive starts but is 1-4 on the season and has given up four earned runs or more in each of his last two outings.

After a woeful June, the Rockies are now 4-10 in July, and they'll be looking to avoid a sweep that would start the second half on a bad note.

Rockies: Morneau expected back in lineup Sunday
Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau, still suffering from a stiff neck on Saturday, hopes Sunday is the day he can face his former club, the Pirates, at PNC Park.

Morneau finished last season with the Pirates and was part of a team that reached the playoffs. He hit .260 in the final 25 regular-season games and went 6-for-20 (.300) in the five-game National League Division Series loss to the Cardinals, but did not hit a home run. This year, Morneau is hitting .312 with 13 home runs and 60 RBIs for the Rockies, the team he signed with this winter.

"It happens to me every now and then, but it's better that it's two days down now than two weeks later," said Morneau, who dealt with neck stiffness during Spring Training and had a brief bout with it earlier in the season. "It's tough because we're playing against my former team and we're scuffling a little bit. But sometimes it's better to think long term. I'm hoping I can play tomorrow."

Pirates: Marte held out of lineup Saturday after being plunked in head
Starling Marte was held out of the Pirates' starting lineup Saturday and didn't play against the Rockies, a day after being hit in the helmet by a 93 mph fastball.

Marte initially stayed in Friday night's 4-2 victory and was evaluated on the field after taking an Adam Ottavino heater to the head. He was removed from the game two innings later, as Travis Snider took over Marte's post in left field -- which manager Clint Hurdle called a precautionary move.

Hurdle thought Marte could possibly be available for Saturday night's game off the bench, but said after a 3-2 walkoff win that the team decided it was best if the 25-year-old took the night off completely.

"Right at game time, the decision was to give him another night," Hurdle said. "Keep him from all activity tonight, and we'll see where he is [Sunday]."

Marte is hitting .258/.329/.390 in 84 games this season with 26 extra-base hits and 34 RBIs.

Worth noting
• The Pirates have thrived against lefties -- Jody Mercer has batted .361 against southpaws the last two seasons, second in the National League; Marte is fifth with a .353 average and Andrew McCutchen is seventh at .348. Comments