PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Kid has one more chance to leave 'em cheering before leaving town.
Whatever happens Monday afternoon at PNC Park, Neil Walker and the Bucs will be departing following Game 4 of the National League Division Series. They just don't know where: Either to St. Louis, for Wednesday's climactic Game 5 (8 p.m. ET on TBS); or to Los Angeles, for the beginning of the NL Championship Series on Friday.
Whatever the destination, Walker hopes to leave his collar behind. The second baseman was the Pirates' only starter without an NLDS hit, having gone 0-for-13 in the first three games.
Yet Walker was one of the most upbeat players in the Pirates' clubhouse following Sunday's game, for a couple of reasons. Despite his 0-for-4 day, the Bucs' 5-3 win put them on the verge of advancing. And as a celebrated streak hitter -- hot or cold -- Walker knew it was coming.
Walker had blazed to the regular-season wire, hitting .324 with six home runs and eight RBIs in the last nine games. He kept it up with a 2-for-5 effort in the NL Wild Card Game victory over Cincinnati.
But St. Louis pitching has thus far thrown a blanket over Walker, making the necessary adjustments after he had lit up the Cardinals for 18 hits during the season -- his most against any team.
"The numbers don't matter any more," manager Clint Hurdle said, meaning cumulative stats become irrelevant in October. "We're all in for what we're trying to get done. When [Walker] gets rolling, he adds depth to our offense. And we know he's capable of doing that. He's fought through challenges all season, for a couple of seasons now."
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.