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Hurdle predicts pickup from Marte-Walker duo

Hurdle predicts pickup from Marte-Walker duo

Hurdle predicts pickup from Marte-Walker duo

ST. LOUIS -- Trying to define and grasp the Pirates' 2013 success? Take it from the top: Starling Marte, moving in as the leadoff batter, electrified what had been a dull spot; more recently, Neil Walker in the No. 2 hole doubled the opportunities for the run producers in the middle of the lineup.

Documentation should be unnecessary by now, but if you need proof: Numerous leadoff hitters last season combined to score 83 runs with an on-base percentage of .291. Despite missing a month late in this season, Marte by himself matched those 83 runs and had an OBP of .343. Walker became the permanent No. 2 hitter against right-handed starters in mid-August, and the Bucs took off.

They have been such keys to turning Pittsburgh's offense loose, it is surprising -- and should be encouraging -- that the Pirates are one win away from the National League Championship Series despite the duo's silence.

Marte (1-for-15) and Walker (0-for-16) have combined to go 1-for-31 atop the lineup. The lone run between them came on Marte's add-on solo homer in the Bucs' 7-1 win in Game 2. Not having them on base helps explain why Andrew McCutchen is still looking to drive in his first NL Division Series run, although he is batting .357.

But if you expect a shakeup for Game 5 from Clint Hurdle -- the "refine, not reinvent" manager -- move on.

"Not contemplating any changes. This is Game 168. These men are both capable, and they have done it in the past," said Hurdle. "We have been pitched effectively in a couple different spots. I have every confidence that [Wednesday] night will be the night that they get going."

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.

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