CHC@PIT: Martin crushes a solo shot to follow Alvarez

PITTSBURGH -- Russell Martin didn't start Wednesday night, and also figures to stay on the bench Thursday afternoon when the Bucs wrap their four-game series with San Diego. Sitting out consecutive starts for the first time since early May would have nothing to do with Martin's shrinking average -- well, except in a roundabout way.

"I want him ready for Cincinnati," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, citing the weekend series against the co-NL Central contenders. "No doubt, the grind behind the plate is challenging him in the batter's box. I want to give him the appropriate rest he needs to get back in balance."

Martin's average has been in steady decline since Aug. 10, and reached .229 on Tuesday night with an 0-for-4 that made him 4-for-40 since Sept. 2.

Yet Hurdle still pegs his plus-minus score in the positive. There is no telling how many extra bases and runs Martin has prevented with his defensive athleticism -- although Hurdle recently requested an analysis that might provide that answer.

"On the average he's blocked 8-10 pitches a night, since Opening Day. The job he has done behind the plate has been a difference maker," Hurdle said. "It's hard to find another catcher who does as much dirt work as he's done. His work on dirt balls is so far ahead of everyone I've ever seen."

Martin has also thrown out an MLB-high 29 runners attempting to steal.

John Buck was behind the plate Wednesday night, for Charlie Morton. Rookie Tony Sanchez will most likely catch Gerrit Cole on Thursday. Sanchez has often been paired with Francisco Liriano, whose next start will come in Friday's series opener against the Reds. Hurdle will want Martin engaged in that.

First number, last word

28: Multihit games for Andrew McCutchen since the All-Star break, out of the total of 57 he has played.

"Oh, man. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. If I didn't care, I would've gone home and not thought about it. But I do care. And I know how much it means to this city, and what this place is like when it's full and electric. But by no means was I pointing a finger at the fans and saying it's their fault." -- A.J. Burnett, responding to the Twitter brushfire he had lit Tuesday night by lamenting the empty seats amid a PNC Park crowd off 22,520 for the Pirates' loss to San Diego.

Worth noting

• Wednesday night's crowd pushed the Pirates' home attendance to the second-highest season total in franchise history, behind only the PNC Park-opening of 2,436,139 in 2001. The Bucs opened the doors to their 77th gate with a season total of 2,086,916; they had drawn 2,091,918 in 2012.

• Each of the Cincinnati pitchers the Pirates will face this weekend (Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo ) has worked 192-plus innings. High man on the Bucs' staff is A.J. Burnett, with 176.