PHOENIX -- The Pirates' season-starting offensive slumber has obscured other positives that bode well for the long season. The focus on the lack of hitting is unavoidable when through six games you've scored only one more run than Royals slugger Billy Butler drove in Sunday (seven).
Still, more props were in order after Sunday's finale of the series in Dodger Stadium. Bucs pitchers, already overshadowed by the offensive black hole, were joined that day by the Pittsburgh defense.
We're talking three exceptional plays in that losing effort:
• In the fifth, third baseman Pedro Alvarez dove to smother Matt Kemp's smash and start an around-the-horn double play, remarkably turned by second baseman Neil Walker.
"Maz taught me well," Walker grinned Monday.
That would be Bill "No Hands" Mazeroski, whose double-play pivots were David Copperfield-grade.
• Later in that same fifth inning, left fielder Starling Marte backhanded Adrian Gonzalez's single into the gap and in one motion unloaded a throw to second that got there so early, when Walker turned to apply a tag, Gonzalez hadn't yet arrived.
• In the bottom of the sixth, shortstop John McDonald gloved a grounder in short left and sidearmed a timely throw to first so on target, Gaby Sanchez didn't have to move his glove at all.
"You watch your guys play defense," manager Clint Hurdle said, "and there's not a day I don't walk away appreciating how hard the game is to play, and how easy these guys make it look sometimes."
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.