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Pirates notebook: Inge breathes easier after home run

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 7:03 p.m.
 

SEATTLE — Brandon Inge's three-run homer Tuesday did more than jump-start the Pirates to an easy win against the Seattle Mariners.

“It probably was as good for him personally as it was for the team,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

It was Inge's first home run in 128 at-bats, dating to Aug. 1, 2012, when he was playing for the Oakland A's.

“I don't like zeros in that stat,” Inge said. “So to get that out of the way is good. I can relax and get back to my normal swing.”

The long drought troubled Inge, 36, who knows the Pirates signed him to provide some pop off the bench. Making the transition to being a role player instead of an everyday guy has been difficult for the 13-year veteran.

“It's kind of hard to figure out when the at-bats are going to come,” Inge said. “It makes you press a little bit more. I've never had to do it before in my career, and I'm trying to figure it out.”

Inge has played in 43 of the Pirates' 78 games but has gotten just 92 at-bats. He's hitting .207 with a meager .503 OPS and seven RBI.

This is Inge's first year with a National League club, but he said it's just coincidence that his first homer happened in an American League ballpark. In 36 career games at Safeco Field, Inge hit only .202 with two homers.

“This hasn't been known as much of a hitter's park,” Inge said. “Although they did move those fences in this year, which has definitely helped.”

Marte's many tools

Starling Marte got his first career two-homer game Tuesday, hitting solo shots off Mariners starter Joe Saunders in the second inning and reliever Carter Capps in the eighth. Marte jumped on the first pitch both times.

“He loves to swing the bat,” Hurdle said. “He showed there is a power tool there and it is legit.”

Power is not Marte's only tool, though. On Saturday, in a victory against the Los Angeles Angles, he made a laser throw to gun down Howie Kendrick, who was trying to score from second on a single.

“I think it caught them off guard that he might throw home,” Hurdle said. “It's not often you see a left fielder with an arm like his.”

Marte has defense, power ... and speed. He opened Tuesday's game with a triple to right field, easily beating a near-perfect relay.

“I don't get focused on power; I just try to hit the ball hard,” Marte said through an interpreter. “If the ball goes out of the field, good for me. If it doesn't, I'll try to take an extra base. I feel really good that I'm showing what I can do overall.”

Locke on a roll

Jeff Locke lost his first outing of the season April 7 at the Los Angeles Dodgers but has not dropped a decision in 15 starts since. The only other Pirates pitcher to make 15 straight starts in a season without losing is Dock Ellis, who did it in 1971.

Polanco, Herrera to Futures Game

Outfielder Gregory Polanco and infielder Dilson Herrera will represent the Pirates on the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game at 2 p.m. July 14 at Citi Field in New York. Polanco has hit a combined .312 with seven homers, 36 RBI and 27 stolen bases for High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona. Herrera is batting .281 with seven homers, 35 RBI and nine steals with Low-A West Virginia.

Minor matters

Altoona pitchers Jameson Taillon and Casey Sadler and second baseman Jarek Cunningham were named to the Eastern League midseason all-star team. It's the first Double-A all-star appearance for all three. Taillon was named an all-star twice before at lower levels of the minors, and Cunningham was chosen once before. The EL all-star game will be played July 10.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib

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