Locke down? Future in rotation unclear after ambush by Braves

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Jeff Locke fires a pitch at Turner Field on Wednesday against the Braves. — GETTY

ATLANTA -- The Pirates had a four-run lead in the first inning against arguably baseball’s worst team.

They were facing a pitcher making his major-league debut. All seemed well for a team that is still trying to manufacture a hot streak that will propel it into playoff contention.

Then, Jeff Locke took the mound. It was all downhill from there.

Locke, who had some quality starts earlier in the season, has been in a funk and his return to the rotation wasn’t good. He couldn’t escape the fifth inning in his first start since July 20, decisively blowing that early lead, as the Pirates fell to the Braves, 8-4, at Turner Field on Wednesday.