By John Perrotto
September 12, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen rounds second base and heads for third against the Milwaukee Brewers in the third inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in Pittsburgh. McCutchen advanced to third on a double by Pirates third baseman Aramis Ramirez. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pirates insist they aren't paying attention to the standings, but Pittsburgh is quickly tightening up the NL Central race.
Jeff Locke pitched one-run ball into the seventh inning and Michael Morse hit a pinch-hit grand slam as the Pirates routed the Milwaukee Brewers 10-2 on Saturday night.
The Pirates drew within 2 1/2 games of first-place St. Louis, the closest Pittsburgh has been since it was two games back at the All-Star break after winning three in a row at home against the Cardinals.
''We've taken the mindset for years about not having a September gear, not having an August gear, about playing October baseball from opening day on,'' Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. ''The season is going to play itself out, and we've just got to keep working on getting better and trying to win games.''
Locke (8-10) allowed three hits in 6 1-3 innings. He struck out seven and walked two after losing consecutive starts and four of his last five decisions.
The cool, damp evening was reminiscent of his native New Hampshire.
''Growing up where there is snow on the field, rain all the time, fields are terrible all the time, it's fun because it's a little gritty,'' Locke said. ''You just hope they don't have to pull the tarp.''
Morse's slam came off Cesar Jimenez in the seventh and extended the Pirates' lead to 10-1. It was Morse's first homer since the Pirates acquired him July 31 from the Los Angeles Dodgers and the fifth slam of his 11-year career.
Josh Harrison tied a career high for hits as he went 4 for 4 with a walk while filling in for ailing left fielder Starling Marte. It was the ninth four-hit game of Harrison's five-year career.
''I'm ready to play every day,'' Harrison said. ''If I'm not in the (original) lineup then I'm still always ready for certain cases like today.''
Aramis Ramirez, acquired from the Brewers on July 23 in a trade, hit a pair of run-scoring doubles, including one during a five-run third inning off rookie right-hander Zach Davies (1-1).
Davies was knocked out of the game by Ramirez's second double in the fourth as the Brewers (62-80) assured themselves a third straight season with at least 80 losses with their fifth defeat in seven games.
Davies gave up six runs and six hits with five walks and three strikeouts, taking his first career loss after notching his first win Monday over at Miami.
''Did a lot of work between the first start and the second start, and it kind of went out the window,'' Davies said.
Ryan Braun had two hits, including a run-scoring double, for the Brewers.
Locke pitched into the seventh for just the second time in his last 10 starts. The left-hander also lowered his home ERA to 3.46 in 88 1-3 innings, compared to 5.89 on the road in 68 innings. Pirates starters have a 1.64 ERA in the last nine games.
Brewers: C Jonathan Lucroy (concussion) missed his fourth straight game and remains listed as day to day after being examined by concussion expert Mickey Collins on Saturday morning at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Pirates: Marte (gastroenteritis) was a late scratch after not starting Friday night's game because of discomfort in his left shoulder.
Brewers: Rookie RHP Tyler Jungmann (9-6, 2.87 ERA) goes in the finale of the four-game series Sunday and has won all three of his starts against the Pirates with a 1.35 ERA.
Pirates: LHP Francisco Liriano (10-7, 3.28) is 6-1 in his last 12 starts.