ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates' last chance to fight their way back into Friday night's 9-1 loss to the Cardinals came down hard -- right atop Neil Walker's right hand.
Walker was the runner on first when Pedro Alvarez, representing the tying run in what at the time was a 5-1 game, batted with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth inning. Alvarez grounded to second, and Walker went into the bag in a vain attempt to break up the double play.
Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma came down on Walker's hand, spikes first, opening a six-stitch gash of Walker's right index-finger knuckle that was expected to sideline the second baseman for the rest of this road stretch.
"It was very, very deep -- the deepest cut I've ever had for stitches," said Walker, wearing a bandage around his right hand with blood stains on his uniform pants after the game. "I'm not excited that it happened, but I do feel fortunate that there was no damage to tendons or bone or issues like that.
"The doc says in six, seven days we'll be able to take the stitches out. It's one of those freak things; you try to play the game right, and sometimes this stuff happens -- [Kozma] went up [on his pivot] but didn't fall down, instead tried to catch himself with his right cleats. My hand got between that and the ground, and he got me on the knuckle."
The injury interrupts Walker's efforts to heat up after a cool start to his season. He is batting .253, with a homer and eight RBIs in 23 games.
Walker's temporary absence justifies the team's intuition in having Brandon Inge spend much of his 20-day rehab assignment at the relatively unfamiliar position of second. Inge, who joined the club Tuesday, is expected to fill in at the position while Walker is sidelined.