Friday’s scouting report: Cubs at Pirates
• Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Starling Marte’s hot bat — Marte entered Thursday with a 10-game hitting streak — can be explained by Marte’s improved timing. Marte is getting his foot down earlier, which has put his head and his hands in a better hitting position thereby unlocking the potential of his plus bat speed. Marte is showing he has power potential as he is slugging .598 since returning from the concussion DL.
• The Cubs have one of the youngest and most aggressive lineups in baseball, which could make them susceptible to Gerrit Cole’s off-speed pitches. Cubs prized rookie Javier Baez is striking out in 41.4 percent of his plate appearances. Cub batters lead baseball with 1,311 strikeouts.
No Pirate puts in more pregame work than Russell Martin. The veteran catcher was spotted running the stadium steps at 2:30 p.m. in Philadelphia. In a contract year, Martin is some of the best shape of his career and perhaps explains why his performance has not slipped in the second half.