CHICAGO -- Neil Walker's return to the Pirates' lineup does more than just give Pittsburgh its starting second baseman. It also gives the Pirates a chance to put their ideal leadoff hitter atop the lineup.
Left fielder Starling Marte was back in the leadoff spot Sunday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. It was the second consecutive day the youngster led off, following Saturday's 2-for-3 performance as the Pirates snapped their seven-game losing streak in Walker's return.
While Walker was out with lower back tightness, Marte batted around the order after returning Sept. 7 from a right oblique strain.
Having Marte atop their order is key for the Pirates. He's hitting .271 with a .311 on-base percentage while leading off, which he's done in 23 of his 27 starts this season. Compare that to the Pirates' leadoff hitters not named Marte, who have a .233 batting average and .281 on-base percentage.
"It's been a challenge in our leadoff spot all year," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "But we know what Starling's capable of. That's why he's going to get reps and that's why we're going to continue to push him out there."