Neil Walker might be shut down early

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Neil Walker has been in and out of the Pirates’ starting lineup for the past four weeks because of lingering lower back tightness and muscle spasms.

And his return to full-time duty is not imminent.

According to Tom Singer of MLB.com, the second baseman could be shut down for the final week of the regular season to avoid making the issue any worse. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told reporters Wednesday that Walker’s energy is “not at major league levels” and that he’s relying on adrenaline to push through the discomfort in his back:

“When he feels good, adrenaline can flare up and he can play,” said Hurdle. “And there’s days he can’t. You don’t want to not let a man play who wants to play and is capable of playing. The energy he has at the start has been tough to maintain. I just know that when he does play, the next day he’s not at the same comfort level as he’d been the morning before.

Yeah, we’re talking about it.”

Walker is batting .280/.342/.426 with 14 homers, 27 doubles and 69 RBI in 129 games played this year.

The Bucs were officially eliminated from playoff contention after Wednesday night’s 6-0 loss to the Mets.

Another young fan was struck by a foul ball, this time at Guaranteed Rate Field

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ESPN reports via the Associated Press that a young boy was struck by a line drive foul ball but was not seriously injured during Sunday afternoon’s game against the Royals. The boy and a woman were escorted by a first aid crew to the concourse area and the boy was later eating ice cream in a luxury suite.

A woman was struck in the face by a foul ball also on the first base side at Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday, but she didn’t request medical assistance.

Last week, a young fan at Yankee Stadium was hit by a line drive foul ball, which motivated several teams to commit to extending protective netting at their ballparks. The Yankees, strangely, were not among them. Nor were the White Sox.

Diamondbacks clinch NL Wild Card

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Losses by the Cardinals to the Pirates and the Brewers to the Cubs on Sunday clinched an NL Wild Card berth for the Diamondbacks. Their walk-off, 3-2 win over the Marlins earned them hosting rights for the Wild Card game.

The D-Backs, now 90-66, trailed the Marlins 2-1 going into the bottom of the eighth. Daniel Descalso tied the game at two apiece with an RBI single off of Brad Ziegler. Second half hero J.D. Martinez secured the win with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth against Javy Guerra.

The Rockies beat the Padres on Sunday to increase their lead over the Brewers (+2) and Cardinals (+2.5) for the second Wild Card slot. One of these three teams will visit Arizona for the Wild Card game.

The Diamondbacks are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, when they lost the Division Series in five games to the Brewers.