The Pittsburgh Pirates were the toast of the National League for much of last season, finally looking like they were set for their first winning season in 20 years. After leading the NL Central with a 67-54 record on Aug. 19, though, the Bucs collapsed, losing 29 of their next 41 games.
This season, Pittsburgh is 15-10 -- far better than last year's 10-12 start -- and once again atop the Central, giving fans perhaps a whisper of a reason to come out of their dark caves of despair, which, admittedly, after so long, may actually be fairly well-appointed and cozy these days.
But, back to the matter at-hand. The Pirates have gone 5-2 over the past seven days, with two of those victories coming from our latest Scout.com Player of the Week, Jeff Locke.
Our previous two Players of the Week have been everyday players -- Prince Fielder and Mike Trout -- but what Locke did this week was tough to ignore.
The former 2006 second-round draft pick by the Atlanta Braves went 2-0 this past week, out-dueling Philadelphia's Cole Hamels 2-0 and shutting out a St. Louis Cardinals lineup featuring second-year stud Matt Carpenter, slugger Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday.
Over the past seven days, the southpaw out of North Conway, N.H., has tossed 13.0 straight innings of shutout ball, striking out 10 while walking just four and allowing a total of five hits.
His WHIP over the past seven days (0.69) is tops among all Major League starters with more than 8.0 innings pitched in the past week (Wei-Yin Chen tossed an eight-inning, two-hit, two-walk shutout against the Oakland Athletics on April 26).
Locke's season has been an eye-opener this far for the Bucs, as he's lowered his career ERA from 5.82 to 4.74, allowing just nine earned runs this year over 28.2 innings of work, during which he's struck out 16 and walked 13, holding opposing batters to a .228 batting average.
April 15-21: Mike Trout
April 8-14: Prince Fielder
25-year-old Jeff Locke has found something this year and he has locked down his spot in the…