09/25/12 11:19 PM ET
Pirates pitching staff sets club strikeouts record
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Walker's slump coincides with Pirates' swoon
NEW YORK -- The Pirates have had all the wheels fall off -- or at least go flat -- in their month-long spinout. In hindsight, however, perhaps nothing applied more drag than Neil Walker's quiet bat. Missing nearly three weeks around the turn into the September stretch silenced that bat altogether. And even before and since, Walker's usual production dried up.He has not driven in a run since Aug. 24, which does include the time down with lower back tightness. While making a gradual return from that, both the timing and opportunities have been lacking. "No part of this thing has been easy or fun," Walker said Tuesday, another down day for him as Josh Harrison started at second base against the Mets. "Since coming back [on Sept. 14], maybe I've had three at-bats with men in scoring position. Yeah, I haven't hit any balls out of the ballpark." Walker hit his 14th and most recent home run on Aug. 8, in the course of a five-RBI game against Arizona. Since, he has driven in a total of four runs in 78 at-bats. After that big day against the D-backs, Walker had 65 RBIs, second on the team to Andrew McCutchen's 69 and way ahead of a couple of teammates who have long since passed him: Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez had 52 and 58 RBIs, respectively. The two had 79 and 81 RBIs, respectively, entering Tuesday night's game. "Getting hurt when I did, absolutely horrible timing, was just throwing salt into the wound," Walker said of his team's swoon. "Then you try to come back right in the fire after being down three weeks. I'm not trying to make excuses, because we always win and lose together."
The Bucs' poor performance hitting with runners in scoring position is reflected by the fact they have actually outhit the opposition in five of their last 11 losses, dating back to the Sept. 10-12 series in Cincinnati. Walker has gone 43 at-bats since his last extra-base hit, a double on Aug. 21. Andrew McCutchen's triple in the eighth-inning of Monday's game was the Bucs' 35th of the season, matching last year's total. The last time the club had more was in 2005 (38).
"It's not hard to process, because we've had to live it every day. It's not fun to go through these things. But as younger players, you learn something from getting your teeth kicked in."
-- Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, on the Pirates' late-season swoon
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.