ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates mustered little offense in their 4-1 loss Wednesday afternoon to the St. Louis Cardinals, but Andrew McCutchen had an infield single, a walk and a double among four plate appearances, meaning he accounted for half of his team's six total baserunners.
He extended his streak of reaching base safely to 24 games, longest on the team this season, and his .369 on-base percentage -- the key figure for any leadoff man -- is the best among the National League's center fielders, as is his total of 93 runs. The on-base percentage ranks 26th among all players in Major League Baseball, and the runs are tied for 21st.
"Where I hit in the order, that's what you have to do: Get on base and score," McCutchen said. "I'll do everything I've got to do to get on base, and I've been doing that. I'm happy with it."
It had appeared for a while that McCutchen might be taking a slight step backward in his first full season in the majors, especially after an August in which he batted .226. But his September numbers are a .330 average, .426 on-base percentage and 21 runs in 88 at-bats. His season average is at .288, with 16 home runs, 55 RBIs, 33 steals and a quality ratio of 87 strikeouts to 70 walks.
That is no step backward.
"Honestly, I don't think I'm doing anything any different right now," McCutchen said. "You swing, and the ball finds a hole. That's it. That's the game of baseball. I'm just trying to finish up these next few games strong and get ready for next year."
The Pirates informed Class AA Altoona manager Matt Walbeck late Wednesday night he would not return, the Altoona Mirror reported.
Walbeck, 40, led the Curve to the Eastern League title and was named the league's manager of the year. The latter was his fourth such honor in six years.
The Pirates offered no reason for the move, other than director of player development Kyle Stark saying that the team thought it best to allow Walbeck to pursue other opportunities.
Walbeck had told the Mirror late in the season that he hoped to move beyond Class AA, but he said Wednesday he never discussed a promotion with the Pirates.
Walbeck told the Mirror the Pirates gave him no explanation.
"No, not really," Walbeck said. "Just that it wasn't going to be a good fit. There were some things about how I have some aspirations and am highly driven and words like that, but, apparently, it wasn't going to work out."
Reliever Chris Resop returned to the mound Tuesday night to throw three pitches and three strikes. It was his first time out since a sore elbow shut him down Sept. 17, and, come Wednesday morning, he downplayed the whole thing.
"The elbow really wasn't serious," he said. "They were just being cautious."
There was merit to that: Resop has pitched 108 1/3 innings this season after making only 12 relief appearances last season with the Japanese club Hanshin. And a good chunk of those innings came while starting for Atlanta's Class AAA team.
• Neil Walker's sacrifice fly in the ninth inning gave him 53 RBIs since the All-Star break, tied for third most in the National League with St. Louis' Albert Pujols. The only players with more are Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki (61) and Carlos Gonzalez (57).
• Pedro Alvarez's hitting streak was extended to nine games with a seventh-inning single.
• Lastings Milledge is taking batting practice with the team, the final step before management decides if he could hit again this season. But Milledge sounded pessimistic about that Wednesday. He has been out since Sept. 13 because of a strained oblique.