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Hurdle talks Pirates' offensive philosophy

MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- This weekend at PNC Park is shaping up to be a study in differing offensive approaches. As the league trends toward booms and busts, home runs and strikeouts, the Pirates have maintained their belief in the value of putting the ball in play.

Thirty-four percent of all plate appearances in Major League Baseball this season have ended in one of three "true" outcomes: a home run, walk or strikeout. The D-backs, Pittsburgh's opponent this weekend, fall on one side of that average, with homers, walks and strikeouts accounting for 37.8 percent of their plate appearances this season entering Thursday's series opener.

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PITTSBURGH -- This weekend at PNC Park is shaping up to be a study in differing offensive approaches. As the league trends toward booms and busts, home runs and strikeouts, the Pirates have maintained their belief in the value of putting the ball in play.

Thirty-four percent of all plate appearances in Major League Baseball this season have ended in one of three "true" outcomes: a home run, walk or strikeout. The D-backs, Pittsburgh's opponent this weekend, fall on one side of that average, with homers, walks and strikeouts accounting for 37.8 percent of their plate appearances this season entering Thursday's series opener.

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On the other end of the spectrum are the Pirates, who have homered, walked or struck out in 30.7 percent of their plate appearances. The Bucs began Thursday with the Majors' second-lowest strikeout rate, a roughly league-average walk rate (17th, 237) and 75 home runs in 73 games (20th). They are something of a rarity in the National League as one of only four teams with more hits than strikeouts.

"The game's running a course, I believe, and there's reasons why it's running this course. There's been different importance put on different things," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We seem to be an outlier from an offensive standpoint of everything they're talking about."

As an organization, the Pirates still emphasize the importance of putting pressure on the opposing defense by making contact. Hurdle called Corey Dickerson the "poster child" for that approach, as the left fielder frequently chokes up with two strikes to avoid strikeouts.

Pittsburgh has four players (Elias Diaz, Dickerson, Adam Frazier and Josh Harrison) with strikeout rates below 15 percent this season, well below this year's league-average strikeout rate of 22.4 percent. The D-backs were one of four teams that began Thursday with strikeouts in at least a quarter of their plate appearances.

"It's still about scoring runs at the end of the day," Hurdle said. "I can understand why the commentary or the narrative is what it is. There's a lot of downtime."

Perhaps more downtime in the field, in fact, than ever before. Hurdle said the Pirates ran a study for their players that found the average three-hour game includes less than 18 minutes of actual action.

"But that doesn't scare me off either. I love the game," Hurdle said. "I'm just finding different things I love about the game, different things I'm willing to fight for in the game and other things I need to let go of because they're going. Maybe they'll come back. I think it's interesting."

Around the horn
• Rather than reshuffle their rotation after Wednesday's rainout, the Pirates pushed all of their starters back a day to keep them in line.

"This group right here has shown the ability to be flexible, to be resilient and also shown some benefits from an extra day [of rest] every now and then," Hurdle said.

• With Dickerson on the family medical emergency list, Austin Meadows got the start in left field on Thursday, going 3-for-4 with a run in a 9-3 loss to the D-backs.

Jung Ho Kang (left wrist discomfort) remained out of the Triple-A Indianapolis lineup on Thursday night after being scratched before Wednesday's game.

• Outfielder Travis Swaggerty, Pittsburgh's first-round pick in the MLB Draft, made his professional debut on Thursday night for short-season Class A West Virginia.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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