PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers had their wheels in motion seemingly nonstop Monday night, stealing six bases on Pirates catcher Michael McKenry -- the most in a game this season.
But the return of their starting catcher took some of the air out of the Brewers' tires.
Russell Martin started Tuesday night after dealing with soreness in his neck during the last week, and said before the game that he doesn't have any concerns in regards to the injury. He added that he feels confident getting back into the lineup, both offensively and defensively.
"You can play through some soreness," Martin said. "But when it's your neck, and you're playing a position with contact and stuff like that, you want your neck to feel like it can support your head. And I've got a big head, so I need my neck strong."
McKenry, who has allowed 23 stolen bases this season while throwing out just one runner, has been the only available catcher for the Pirates in the last week, although the team brought Tony Sanchez to New York on Saturday from Triple-A Indianapolis. They sent him back the next day because Martin's return was near.
Martin missed six of the last seven games after his neck locked up during warmups on May 7, only playing Thursday, admittedly too early of a return. He has allowed 15 stolen bases and thrown out nine runners this season (37.5 percent) -- including Ryan Braun in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 4-3, 12-inning win over the Brewers -- the third best percentage in the National League entering Tuesday with at least 20 games played.
"Today, there's no worries," Martin said. "That's why I'm in the lineup. There's nothing to be worried about."
The Pirates will start three left-handers to close out their series with the Brewers, and Hurdle said he hopes that will contain some of Milwaukee's speed on the bases. Nine times this season has a team stolen at least four bases, and three times it's been the Brewers -- all coming against the Pirates.
"They were going [Monday] as soon as we picked up and did anything but a slide-step," Hurdle said. "Unfortunately, not everybody can slide-step every pitch. And they know that."
Hurdle said third baseman Brandon Inge or shortstop John McDonald would have strapped on the shin guards and chest protector last week in case of an emergency, but it didn't come to that.
"I don't think it's something he's jumping to do. But if a body drops, I think Brandon would've walked down and said, 'Give me stuff, I'm ready to do this,'" Hurdle said. "Johnny's been working in practice, so he's ready to do this, too."
Tabata finding own identity away from Clemente
PITTSBURGH -- During Spring Training, Jose Tabata mentioned that his plan for re-launching his career included breaking away from his well-known dotage of Roberto Clemente.
His adoration of the Pirates immortal remains but, "I have to be my own person. I wanted to get my own identity," he said.
That included more than a new mindset, turns out. Tabata confirmed that a few months ago he had something removed that had been a part of him, literally -- the Clemente tattoo on his left upper chest.
But Tabata still plays with Clemente in his heart, and still plays with PNC Park's Clemente Wall at his back. He drew another start in right field Tuesday night, against Brewers right-hander Kyle Lohse, and went 3-for-5 with two doubles in the 4-3, 12-inning win over Milwaukee to up his batting average to .294 for the season.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle didn't have to think too hard about starting him -- Tabata entered the game with a lifetime .476 (10-for-21) average against Lohse.
"And there aren't too many guys in the game who are 10-for-21 against Lohse," Hurdle said.
Tabata, 12-for-26 in his last six starts, may be back in the lineup on Wednesday, as he's 4-for-10 against Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee's scheduled starter.
First number, last word
6: Consecutive games hit safely by Clint Barmes, who went 1-for-5 with an RBI on Tuesday, surpassing his longest streak of the 2012 season.
"He's more in a survivor mentality than ever before, and it has nothing to do with [living up to] the contract. It's not knowing how many more playing opportunities will come with it." -- Hurdle, on the revival of Tabata, while conceding that the six-year contract he signed in August 2011 guaranteed him some rope, but not of infinite length.
• Noted clubhouse Star Wars freak Jason Grilli is quite proud of the full-body Chewbacca costume in the empty locker next to his, a recent gift from Martin. The eyes of the reliever with the "Cheese" nickname lit up when it was suggested to him that he should heretofore be known as "Cheesebacca."
• Righty Jeff Karstens (shoulder inflammation) is scheduled to make his next rehab start with Class A Bradenton on Saturday, when he will target four innings or 60 pitches. Karstens went three innings for the Marauders Monday night, allowing four hits and a run while striking out four without a walk.
• The Bucs have had four winning streaks of three games -- they've yet to reach four -- but here is the unusual part: All four have come against the same team, a three-game sweep of the Reds and the final three after dropping the first games of four-game series with the Braves, Phillies and Mets.
That oddity is also a reflection of the Pirates' overall record in the opening games of series, which fell to 4-9 with Monday night's 5-1 loss to Milwaukee. They are 18-8 in all the other games.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.