CHICAGO -- The Pirates swiped a season-high four bases in Sunday's 13-9 loss to the Cubs, a surprisingly high number for a team that has struggled in that area this season.
Pittsburgh entered Monday's series finale at Wrigley Field with a National League-low 63 stolen bases, a mark that sits 28th in baseball. The Bucs also have been caught stealing 48 times -- one behind Major League-leader Arizona -- for a Major League-low 57 percent success rate. The D-backs' 63 percent success rate is the next closest.
"We've tried to be more aggressive, but the baserunning numbers aren't where we want them to be this year," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's a work in progress. We're doing everything we can -- from our player development system on up -- to create a mentality.
"All of us are working hand in hand to get our running game where we feel it can be effective, percentage-wise, but also can make a difference in the course of the game."
Granted, Sunday's performance should be taken with a grain of salt. Cubs catcher Welington Castillo has thrown out only seven would-be basestealers in 34 attempts (20.6 percent) this season. But it was a step in the right direction.
"We found some situations with some guys that worked better, got better results," Hurdle said. "Hopefully that's like anything else that can boost the confidence going in the last 17 [games]."
Hurdle opts to rest Walker in Cubs finale
CHICAGO -- Two weeks of inactivity followed by two long games put Pirates second baseman Neil Walker back on the bench for Monday night's series finale against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle didn't term Walker's back as "flared up," but wanted to give the second baseman a break after the past two games. Saturday's contest lasted three hours and 26 minutes, while Sunday's was a Pirates' season-long four hours and four minutes.
Brook Holt started in Walker's place at second, batting eighth.
Walker missed 16 games with lower back tightness before making a pinch-hit appearance on Friday and started and played full games Saturday and Sunday. Hurdle said he wanted to give Walker a break after the second baseman didn't do much of anything the prior two weeks.
"Back-to-back games, they were extremely long games, a long time spent on his feet," Hurdle said. "He can give us what we had, but I think we'd be better served to give him the day today and get him back in for the Milwaukee series," Hurdle said.
Hurdle said Walker would be available off the bench on Monday.
Cutch a contender for 'baddest dude in the league'
CHICAGO -- Many factors go into deciding which player is crowned Most Valuable Player. For Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, the criteria is simple.
"The MVP should be the baddest dude in the league," Hurdle said.
In Hurdle's mind, the baddest dude in the league is an offensive power. He's a solid baserunner and a standout fielder. The baddest dude in the league is the whole package.
And even with the unofficial name change, the player who wins the MVP Award, at least for Hurdle, still should have the edge in what that middle letter stands for.
"The way I try to view it is what the absence of what guy with what team would have the greatest impact in that team's overall performance if he wasn't having the season he's having," Hurdle said. "Goes back to being the baddest dude in the league."
Remove center fielder Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates and the Bucs likely wouldn't be three games out of the second National League Wild Card spot.
Take Giants catcher Buster Posey out from behind the dish and San Francisco likely wouldn't be running away with the NL West.
If there's no Ryan Braun in the middle of the Brewers' order, Milwaukee likely isn't making a late-season surge -- and passing the Pirates along the way.
But here's the thing: only one of those teams, if the season ended today, would be in the playoffs. That doesn't necessarily knock McCutchen or Braun from consideration for baddest dude in the league, though.
"You're looking for a position player at a high-impact position who's done a remarkable job and made a significant difference for his particular club, and where they are throughout the season in the standings," Hurdle said.
Hurdle also made a point that the best public relations for a player comes from within the league. In McCutchen's case, Hurdle said his impact has been evident in how other clubs attack him.
"He's one of the guys, I would think, when you talk about, 'We're not going to let this guy beat us,' he would be the guy for us," Hurdle said. "I would think that conversation would probably happen more often than not."
Which is one reason why McCutchen is under consideration for baddest dude in the league.
• Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said right-hander Jared Hughes would not be available out of the bullpen for Monday's game, nor would right-hander James McDonald, who was removed from the rotation on Sunday. Hurdle also said righty Chris Leroux was a question mark. Hughes has worked three consecutive days, while Leroux threw 1 2/3 innings on Sunday.
• Pedro Alvarez entered Monday leading all National League third baseman with 29 home runs, trailing only Detroit's Miguel Cabrera (36) for most among Major League third basemen. Alvarez's next homer will be his 30th, making him only the third Pirate third baseman to hit that mark in a single season. He would join Aramis Ramirez, who hit 34 in 2001, and Frank Thomas, who hit 31 in 1958.