Marte’s walk-off homer in 10th leads Pirates by Braves 6-5
PITTSBURGH (AP) Starling Marte’s talent is without question. So is his often erratic attention to detail. In a few hours Sunday, the Pittsburgh Pirates centerfielder put the full spectrum on display.
Marte was picked off twice in the span of three innings as the Pirates tried to mount a comeback against Atlanta, then provided an RBI single in the eighth that gave his team life and finished an improbable rally with a two-run walk-off home run in the 10th in a 6-5 victory.
The Braves took the lead in the top of the 10th on an RBI groundout by Tyler Flowers but Adam Frazier doubled leading off bottom of the inning. Marte drove the next pitch from Ramirez (0-1) into the visitor’s bullpen beyond the center field fence as the Pirates completed their first three-game sweep of Atlanta since 1994.
”I had a feeling,” Marte said. ”I knew I got barrel. The wind was so hard so out and helped me a little bit. I knew I got that one.”
Marte finished 4 for 5 with two runs and two RBIs. Frazier added three hits for the Pirates. Felipe Rivero (1-0) picked up the victory, the 100th walk-off in the 16-year history of PNC Park.
”If you want to be an elite team, you’ve got to come back and win games,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.
And to be elite, the Pirates need Marte to thrive. The team moved him to center field in the offseason – supplanting star Andrew McCutchen – and tasked him with being a catalyst with both his glove and his bat.
”Probably, truly the only five-tool player I’ve ever played with,” Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole said. ”He can just do so many special things, and today was a big difference-maker for us.”
Freddie Freeman hit his first two home runs of the season for Atlanta. Dansby Swanson added a solo shot but the Braves’ bullpen couldn’t hold a solid start by Julio Teheran, who left with a 4-2 lead after seven strong innings.
Johnson came on trying to protect a one-run lead in the ninth but the Pirates loaded the bases and tied it when Atlanta second baseman Brandon Phillips dropped the ball while trying to transfer it to his glove thanks to a hard but legal slide by David Freese.
The Braves appeared to be fine when Nick Markakis sprinted home on Flowers’ sharp grounder to third the next inning. It didn’t last. Atlanta has dropped five of six to start 2017.
”We’ve got to make plays,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. ”You give teams extra outs and runs like that and it’s hard to win. There are just a number of things we’ve done the first week of the season that we can’t do and expect to win games.”
Seven of Pittsburgh’s 17 runs in the series were unearned, including three on Sunday. Two came in the fourth when Freeman couldn’t handle a pickoff throw from Teheran with Marte caught well off the bag. The ball skittered away and Marte raced to second, setting up an inning in which the Pirates scored twice to briefly tie it.
”We’re just not catching the ball and fielding the ball,” Freeman said. ”We need to start doing that.”
Teheran kept the Pirates in check save for the slight stumble in the fourth. He needed just 87 pitches to get through seven innings, walking one and striking out four. Teheran hasn’t allowed an earned run through two starts.
”That’s the way I wanted to start and wanted to keep the whole season,” Teheran said. ”Just thinking of the next one and making it the same as the first two.”
Cole, the ace of the third-youngest starting staff in the majors, gave up a home run to Swanson in the first, another to Freeman in the fifth and failed to retire the Braves in order during any of his six innings of work, striking out four and walking two.
Braves: LF Matt Kemp sat out a second straight game for tightness in his right hamstring.
Pirates: Freese was held out of the starting lineup with a bruised clavicle. He entered as a pinch hitter in the ninth and drew a walk. He then stayed in to play first base.
Braves: Bartolo Colon will make his 511th career start and second with the Braves on Monday in Miami.
Pirates: Begin a three-game series with Cincinnati on Monday. Jameson Taillon makes his second start of the season.