The Pirates and Athletics are both looking to improve their spots in the standings in what have been inconsistent seasons to date. They'll get a chance to do so when they play each other in an Interleague matchup over the weekend in Oakland, and Friday's opener provides an intriguing pitching matchup, with Pittsburgh left-hander Jeff Locke going up against A's righty Sonny Gray.
For the visiting Pirates, success might be tied to the performance of Locke, who has been excellent of late. Locke's last start was a 6-1 win over the Dodgers in Pittsburgh on Saturday night. He went seven innings in that effort, giving up one run on five hits. In his previous outing, Locke beat the Giants and ace Madison Bumgarner by pitching 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball. He did not walk a batter in either game.
Meanwhile, Gray has been rounding into form since coming back from the disabled list. The A's ace has turned in quality starts his last two games, pitching six innings of two-run (one earned) ball against the Brewers on June 21 and following it up with six innings of two-run ball against the Angels in Anaheim on June 26.
Things to know about this game
• Locke is 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA in one career start vs. the A's. It came on July 8, 2013, at PNC Park in a 2-1 loss.
• There's a good chance Gregory Polanco could be back in the outfield for the Pirates. He started both games at designated hitter in the two-game series vs. the Mariners in Seattle on Tuesday and Wednesday.
• Gray has only faced the Pirates once, and it was in his Major League debut. It came on July 10, 2013, in Oakland, and the 23-year-old Gray pitched two innings of scoreless relief, giving up one hit and striking out three batters.