In preparation for Tuesday's start, Jeff Locke added a dose of reality to his practice session.

Like a golfer who plays the course in his mind on the driving range, Locke simulated potential matchups against the lineups the Philadelphia Phillies sometimes use against left-handers.

"You got to remember, too, it's just a bullpen [session]," Locke said after pitching six scoreless innings in a 2-0 win against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. "That's something I get caught up in sometimes. I just got to keep staying aggressive down there and keep working."

Locke (2-1) was aggressive Tuesday, and it showed. In the game, Locke eliminated two issues that plagued him in his past two starts. He did not allow a home run and he limited his walks. He credited improved command and belief in his pitches with helping him limit the walks and home runs.

"There's been times this season where the conviction hasn't been there on pitches here and there," he said. "Tonight, it was 100 percent conviction, all pitches, everything's great."

Locke's control forced the hand of the Phillies batters, manager Clint Hurdle said, in addition to limiting walks.

"The key for him tonight, though, the best he's ever done, he threw the most competitive pitches he's ever thrown in a start," Hurdle said. "Many of the times we've seen them, they're balls right out of his hand. Tonight they had to take looks, only a handful of balls out of his hand were misfired."

The win evened the four-game series at a game apiece. The Pirates have won four of their past five games.

In his previous start against Atlanta, Locke allowed three home runs and four walks in 4 2/3 innings. He walked eight batters in 9 2/3 innings in his past two starts.

"This park, it's 27 shots on goal," Hurdle said. "You can reach anywhere.

"We needed a show-up start tonight and Jeff gave it to us."

Locke worked with men on base all night. He walked Michael Young and allowed a double to Ryan Howard in the first inning, but stranded them. Starling Marte dropped a ball off the bat of Ben Revere and Locke walked Erik Kratz to put two men on in the second, but he struck out Jimmy Rollins to end the inning.

"That's his best big league performance," Hurdle said. "By far, tonight it was just really good. He had to battle, he had to compete, he had to get out of a jam."