DETROIT -- Hit on the head by Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera's arm as he crossed the bag on an infield hit in the sixth inning of the Pirates' 9-3 win over the Tigers, Neil Walker got a temporary bad feeling. How bad?
After his second home run and fourth hit, Walker had no trouble placing himself: Oh, yes, Comerica Park.
"He's had some history here … and in July," manager Clint Hurdle said after the right side of his infield lived up to its power.
Only a few days earlier, Hurdle had invited reporters to check how many home runs Walker and first baseman Pedro Alvarez had hit in June, and challenged them to not be surprised by the answer. At the end of June, the answer still was: Two.
That's right -- or one fewer than Walker and Alvarez have one day into the new month.
"He gives another dimension to our offense when he gets rolling," Hurdle said of Walker. "And he swung the bat so well tonight. Walker has a history of being a good hitter, of being a run producer."
He also has a history of doing it in spurts. Both his current fire and its location are true Walker. He is upholding his reputation as a streak hitter -- hot or cold -- with 10 hits in his last 20 at-bats. In his last six games in Detroit, he has gone 14-for-29.
"Playing in a big field," Walker said of Comerica, which qualifies, "makes you try to swing gap-to-gap, and that approach may help drive the ball better, I don't know.
"I've never been a consistent home run hitter," added Walker, who nonetheless last season set the franchise record for homers at his position (23). "I know my role on this team is to be a middle-of-the-order guy, and it has not happened to this point. I tend to get hot later in the year, and I'm going to work my hardest to do a better job at the plate."
Walker touched off one burst after another in one of the Bucs' loudest nights of the season. Look at it this way: They collected 21 hits; recently they were swept in Washington while collecting a three-game total of 14 hits (OK, one of them was a no-hitter by Max Scherzer).
"They're both big parts of our offense," Hurdle said of Walker and Alvarez. "We've had everybody contribute from time to time, but it's good to get them involved."