09/29/12 7:40 PM ET
Pirates' running game not yet up to speed
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Playing time dwindling, Marte a work in progress
PITTSBURGH -- A number of the Pirates' midseason moves, made to sustain the club's high standing, did not work out. Was the promotion of Starling Marte among those that missed the mark?Implications are that perception could be accurate. Marte's recent benching and "remedial" workouts suggest he may not have been quite ready for the step to the Major after a half-season in Triple-A. The irony is that for a long time, the club resisted fans' outcries for Marte's promotion from Indianapolis, until finally relenting on July 26. Marte's bow was definitely electric: a first-pitch home run touching off a 2-for-4 night in a 5-3 win in Houston. Soon enough, however, the rookie began to struggle, and was further impaired by a mid-August oblique injury that idled him for nearly three weeks. Forty-two games and 152 at-bats in, Marte is batting .250, and playing less frequently. He started twice in the last week, and was again on the bench for Saturday night's game against the Reds. "There's a bunch of things we're working on with Starling," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Baserunning -- leads and breaks. Barreling up the ball at bat. Bunting. I'd put all three at the top of the list."
With Friday's loss, the Pirates clinched their 19th straight losing record against National League Central teams in as many years of interdivisional play. Before Homer Bailey's no-hitter, the Bucs were 38-40 against division teams and still had a chance for a winning division record for the first time since the Central's birth in 1994. Sunday's series finale against Cincinnati is also the final against the NL Central. Easily camouflaged by Bailey's no-hitter was the fact his 10 strikeouts increased Pittsburgh batters' season total to 1,312, a new club record, breaking last season's total of 1,308. The Pittsburgh staff took an ERA of 3.92 into game No. 158. The last season the team ERA finished below 4.00 was in 1998 (3.91).
"I think the world of Dusty, personally and professionally, and I do [wish] him a speedy recovery."
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on Cincinnati counterpart Dusty Baker, who is missing this series while concluding his recovery from a minor stroke
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.