Starling Marte’s 3-run homer in 13th lifts Pirates over A’s
Clint Hurdle makes his living figuring out what makes people do what they do. The Pittsburgh Pirates manager thinks he has figured out Starling Marte.
After nearly four hours of baseball Sunday at PNC Park, Marte hit a three-run homer to defeat the Oakland A’s, 5-3, bringing the Pirates back from a 3-1 deficit in the bottom of the 13th inning.
It was only his fourth home run of the season but the fifth walk-off of his career.
How does he come through in those situation so often? Hurdle said he doesn’t know for sure, but he has a pretty good idea.
“There’s still a 6-year-old in there who wants to be a guy,” Hurdle said. “Now, he’s been in the big leagues a while. He’s 30. He wants to be a guy. When you do things like he did today, you become a guy.”
The Pirates (16-15) have reached a point in their season where they need stars to produce. Marte might be the most athletically gifted player on the team, and his 101 mph, 390-foot shot over the center-field fence was the most recent piece of evidence.
The rally against A’s reliever Fernando Rodney started when Cole Tucker, who was 0 for his past 12 at-bats, singled to the opposite field. Jung Ho Kang walked, and Adam Frazier ripped an RBI single into right-center. Tucker scored, and Kang reached third.
Marte said he was only trying hit a fly ball to score Kang.
“It meant a lot to be able to get the ball even deeper than that,” Marte said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “It brings me back to that place being that guy the team can continue to depend on.”
He said clutch situations “make me feel big.”
“Something about those situations make me feel like this is a great opportunity, and I just start believing in myself greatly.”
Tucker had more to do with the victory than his single. He was one of four Pirates infielders who recorded 17 assists for six pitchers, including starter Jordan Lyles, who worked 6 2/3 strong innings.
One of Tucker’s assists was a diving stop behind second base when he leaped to his feet, spun around and threw, almost blindly, to first baseman Josh Bell.
“I tell (pitchers) all the time I’ll run through fire to make them look good to get outs for them,” Tucker said. “I kind of spin and, athletically, it happens. I see JB and he’s really hard to miss. All right, cool. I hit him. It’s all reactionary. It’s fun.”
The Pirates had only five hits in the first 12 innings, but Tucker said that didn’t matter.
“Going into the 12th or 13th or 400th inning, it’s easy to get discouraged,” he said, “but we have complete belief in our lineup.”
Tucker, who had just scored, said he jumped onto to the field when he saw Marte’s ball come off the bat. But he worried that maybe he had celebrated too early.
“I jumped up before the ball went over and said, ‘Go over! go over!’ ”
When it did, Tucker felt a sense of relief and could remember only “throwing gum at Marte afterwards.”
“It was such a cool moment,” the rookie shortstop said. “I can’t wait to be that guy.”
In the euphoria of the moment, Lyles’ effort was almost forgotten.
“We were somewhat efficient after the first inning (when he walked a batter),” Lyles said.
More than half of the Pirates’ games this season have been decided by one or two runs. Eight have gone into extra innings. The team is 12-9 and 6-2 in those situations, thanks to starters such as Lyles (2-1, 2.20 ERA) keeping the score close.
“We’ve been battle-tested on the field and off the field with injuries,” he said of the team that is 4-1 since its eight-game losing streak. “Hopefully, we’ll get a little run going where games are a little bit easier for us. We’ve been scratching and clawing all season.
“We’re not worrying about who’s jumping in, who’s jumping out. Everyone needs to do their job. We’ve done a good job of doing our jobs.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .